Paraguay's ousted President Fernando Lugo declared the country's new government illegitimate Sunday and said he would not collaborate with a false administration as neighboring countries step up criticism of his sudden impeachment and removal.
Lugo, a mild-mannered former Roman Catholic bishop, said he would back any peaceful effort aimed at restoring institutional order after Congress voted overwhelmingly to remove him from office on Friday, Reuters reported.
Lugo has not been dismissed; democracy has been dismissed. They have not respected the popular will, he said at a street protest attended by about 500 people in the capital Asuncion, The Daily Telegraph reported. There was a parliamentary coup d'etat ... the arguments for impeachment had no value.
The impeachment was sparked by clashes that killed 17 police and peasants during a recent land eviction. Critics of the process complained Lugo's lawyers had only a few hours to defend him in the Senate, which voted 39-4 in favour of his removal. Vice President Federico Franco was quickly sworn in as Paraguay's new leader.
Lugo acknowledged that it would be very difficult to return in power, but said there should be no more violence, adding: Peacefully, the democratic process will continue, with more strength.
Franco said Saturday that he hoped Lugo would help him stem the international outcry over the change in power.
Right now I'm trying to speak with President Lugo. I'm going to do it. I think his presence as a Paraguayan is very important to give an international image, because right now we need a legally constituted government, he said.
No foreign government however has recognized Paraguay's new leadership. Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay – Paraguay's partners in the Mercosur trading bloc – all have recalled their ambassadors for consultations. Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez halted oil shipments to Paraguay on Sunday and withdrew his ambassador from the country as well.
Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner called the move a coup and warned that Mercosur could take measures against Paraguay.
Lugo was one year short of completing his five-year presidential term when he was voted out.
Lugo's supporters queued up Saturday night to speak for a televised open microphone program broadcast by a public television channel founded by Lugo's administration, to register their disapproval.
The director of Television Publica resigned within hours of Lugo's ouster. Paraguayan media alleged that Franco's communication advisor demanded the channel's programming schedule Friday.
Besides Paraguay's Mercosur partners, Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador, Cuba and Nicaragua have said they would not recognize the new government and have pledged to lobby for sanctions against the new government.
Franco said the ouster of the former president was neither a rupture nor a coup, adding that the change in leadership was in line with the constitution.
(Lugo) recognized he faced a tribunal, he recognized the tribunal's verdict and finally he agreed to step down. Even more importantly, he asked for people to remain peaceful so no more blood would be shed, Franco said. At no time was there a rupture or a coup, there was simply a change of leadership in line with the constitution and the country's laws.