Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 20 September 2014

Paraguay president ousted by Senate

Paraguay's former president Fernando Lugo addresses the nation (AP/Jorge Saenz)
Paraguay's new president Federico Franco wears the presidential sash during his swearing-in ceremony (AP/Cesar Olmedo)

Paraguay's Senate has voted to remove President Fernando Lugo from office in an impeachment trial that plunged the South American country into a crisis.

After a quick, five-hour trial, 39 senators voted to dismiss Mr Lugo, while four senators voted against and two were absent. Based on the decision, Mr Lugo is to be replaced by Vice President Federico Franco of the Authentic Radical Liberal Party.

Crowds of pro-Lugo protesters took to the streets condemning the impeachment trial and expressing support for the president. Police in anti-riot gear drove them back on horseback and using water cannon.

Paraguay's lower house of Congress voted to impeach Mr Lugo on Thursday. The Senate tried him on five charges of malfeasance in office, including an alleged role in a deadly confrontation between police and landless farmers that left 17 dead.

Venezuelan Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro, who travelled to Paraguay ahead of the vote as part of a delegation from the UNASUR regional bloc, denounced it as a "new type of coup".

"A truly shameful act has been committed," Mr Maduro told reporters.

Mr Lugo decided not to attend the trial, instead watching on television from the presidential palace while his lawyers spoke on his behalf.

The Senate rejected a request by his lawyers for a period of 18 days to prepare their arguments.

The Senate's president, Jorge Oviedo, said there were no grounds for such a request.

The impoverished, landlocked nation has a long history of political instability. Mr Lugo was elected four years ago on promises of helping the South American country's poor, but his more moderate government allies have increasingly turned against him in recent years.

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