The news this weekend that Fernando Lugo has been the victim of a Parliamentary coup in Paraguay is a terrible blow to the liberation struggle in South America.
He is known as the 'Priest of Paraguay', and was instrumental in overturning 61 years of rule by the rightwing Colarados (including the dictatorship of General Alfredo Stroessner from 1954-89)
This Liberation Theologian and former Catholic Bishop managed to win the 2008 Presidential elections in a stunning victory for the left. He had been a champion of the poor and indigenous population, and it was almost incredible that he could have won.
He was part of a tide of support for the left which has once again changed the face of Latin American politics, begun by the victory of Hugo Chavez in Venezuela ten years before. Brazil, Bolivia, Ecuador, Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, Nicaragua, Honduras and even Peru elected Leftist leaders.
Many of these leaders were influenced by the Liberation Theology movement, but none more so than Lugo in Paraguay. He has faced continual opposition and threats from the right wing dominated Senate, and after a conflict flared up in the Chacos region leaving 17 dead including 9 police officers, Senators moved to impeach him.
The conflict was in regard to landless peasants occupying a disused piece of land, something Lugo had encouraged as a way of redistributing the wealth of the nation. Some 80% of land in Paraguay is owned by 5% of the population.
There have been violent clashes on the streets of the capital Asuncion, but Lugo has called for only peaceful resistance. But the poor of Paraguay have lost a great ally, and the country is back in the hands of non-democratic leaders. The coup leader is Lugo's former Vice-President Frederico Franco, who Lugo put in post as a gesture of unity to the right wing at the time of his election.
Will the world accept these events, or will they put pressure on Franco (an apt name) to return Lugo to his rightful elected place? Latin America is once again seeing the return of the right wing 'strong man', and history must warn to the disasters this will bring.
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