It is now four years ago that the democratically elected President Fernando Lugo was removed from office by means of a parliamentary coup. The consequences of the coup continue to be felt in the country, and there is still no clarity about the exact circumstances of it. 11 landless peasants have recently been sentenced to long prison sentences, and a 12th accused is now on trial. At the same time, Lugo’s followers see an opportunity for to seize power again.
An important point of the aftermath of the parliamentary coup d’etat in Paraguay in 2012 was reached today — although with a rather surprising turn of events.
The case against former leftist President Lugo had started when police tried to remove land occupiers in Curuguaty, an rural area some 240 km from the capital Asunción, on the June 15, 2012. It ended with six police and eleven farmers shot and it was unclear who was behind it. Lugo exchanged his interior minister June 17, but a majority in parliament that had been against him for a while decided to remove him from power on June 22. This was possible due to the very vaguely worded and contradictory constitution of Paraguay which tries to mix aspects of a presidential system with a parliamentary democracy, and because military and police would not oppose the removal of the president.
But what exactly happened in Curuguaty? Some have speculated that it was all just a setup with snipers from the outside intervening in order to have cause for removing the president from office. In the Paraguayan justice system, there is instead a case being build up against 13 land occupying farmers whose responsibility for having killed the police men they claim to want to try.
Ever since the case began in 2012, Paraguayan activists have build a campaign to obtain international attention to what is going on and to obtain justice for the small scale farmers who they argue are innocent. The high-profile activist defense lawyers Vicente Morales and Guillermo Ferreiro had been working for 11 of the farmers since.
Today, the trial was about to start. Observers from all over Paraguay and other parts of Latin America had gathered to follow how it would go and spread information about any irregularities in what was going on.
The observers were very surprised when during the start of the trial, all 10 accused represented by Morales and Ferreiro asked to instead be represented by Joaquín Díaz, the public defender of the 12th accused. A 13th accused was a minor during the events and will therefore be tried separately.
Díaz declared he could not work on defending all 12 cases. Due to these circumstances, the trial has been postponed for one day.
The accused explained later that they took the decision to change lawyers because they felt their life was on the line and Morales and Ferreiro had earlier been accused of “legal tricks” and were facing possible proceedings after the trial which may lead to them losing their license to practice law, so the accused were afraid they could not defend them well.
The activists who have been working with the case have declared that they accept the decision of the accused to decide by whom they want to be represented, but also that they do not trust Díaz, whom they on Facebook accuse of having collaborated with the prosecutor at an earlier stage of the process.
English: Read a recent article from Telesur
On my recent trip to Paraguay, right after the coup d’etat, which removed President Fernando Lugo from power, I was able to interview people of all kinds of types in relation to what happened. One of the interviews that most interest was shown for abroad was that with Fernando Lugo himself.