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Does Paraguay risk pariah status with president's ouster?

Ousted president Fernando Lugo denounced his removal as a 'parliamentary coup,' and hinted that domestic and international pressure could reverse his impeachment.

By Peter OrsiAssociated Press / June 24, 2012

Paraguay's new President Federico Franco gives a thumbs up as he arrives to give a news conference at the presidential palace in Asuncion, Paraguay, Saturday. Paraguay's newly sworn in president is promising to honor foreign commitments and reach out to Latin American leaders after the Senate removed President Fernando Lugo from office in a rapid impeachment trial on Friday.

Jorge Saenz/AP


Asuncion, Paraguay

Fernando Lugo emerged early Sunday to denounce his ouster as Paraguay's president as a "parliamentary coup" and a "foreordained sentence" that was not based on proper evidence.

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Lugo said his truncated presidency was targeted because he tried to help the South American nation's poor majority. Asked whether he had any hope of retaking office, Lugo exhorted his followers to remain peaceful but suggested that popular national and international clamor could lead Paraguayan lawmakers to reverse his impeachment.

"In politics, anything is possible," Lugo said.

He added that he was visited by Roman Catholic bishops before Friday's Senate trial for alleged poor performance of duties, and agreed to accept the outcome of a process he considered illegitimate only to avoid bloodshed.

Lugo spoke in a pre-dawn special televised "open microphone" program hosted by a state-funded public television channel that was created by his government. As Saturday turned into Sunday, a long line of speakers queued up in front of the station's headquarters to vent their frustration over what they called an institutional coup, calling for strikes and protests to demand his return.

"We will not recognize any other president," chanted the crowd of at least 200 people, waving Paraguayan flags and bundled up against the Southern Hemisphere winter.

The nighttime protest broke the quiet of an otherwise sleepy day when many shops were closed and streets were largely empty. Some alleged that the public station was being censored by the nascent government of Federico Franco, who took the oath of office the previous day.

Earlier Saturday, Mr. Franco set about forming his new government as he promised to honor foreign commitments, respect private property, and reach out to Latin American leaders to minimize diplomatic fallout and keep his country from becoming a regional pariah.

In a brief appearance before international journalists, Franco tried to broadcast a sense of normality a day after lawmakers overwhelmingly voted to kick Lugo out of office.

"The country is calm. I was elected [as vice president] in 2008 by popular vote. Activity is normal and there is no protest," Franco said.

His first two appointments were Interior Minister Carmelo Caballero, who will be tasked with maintaining public order in this poor, landlocked South American nation, and Foreign Minister Jose Felix Fernandez, who will immediately hit the road to try to appease fellow members of the Mercosur and Unasur regional trade blocs.

"Our foreign minister will go to Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay to meet with authorities and explain to them that there was no break with democracy here. The transition of power through political trial is established in the national constitution," Franco said.


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