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Neighbors pull envoys after Paraguay dumps president

By the CNN Wire Staff
updated 4:13 PM EDT, Sun June 24, 2012
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Chile and Venezuela recall their ambassadors
  • Brazil and Uruguay express concern about the impeachment of the president
  • New President Federico Franco says the process was constitutional
  • Some leaders say they refuse to recognize the Franco government

(CNN) -- Four of Paraguay's neighbors said Sunday they are pulling their ambassadors from the country in the wake of the impeachment of Paraguay's president.

Chile and Venezuela recalled the ambassadors hours after Brazil and Uruguay -- two of Paraguay's most important neighbors -- did the same. Argentina recalled its ambassador on Saturday.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez also said his country is halting all shipments to Paraguay.

Brazil's foreign ministry said the action was due to the "breakdown of democracy" in Paraguay, and vowed to take up the impeachment with the regional blocs MERCOSUR and UNASUR.

The moves follow the lightning-quick removal from office of President Fernando Lugo on Friday.

The impeachment procedures appear to have been carried out in accordance with the Paraguayan constitution, but some Latin American presidents call it a coup d'etat and refuse to recognize the new president, Federico Franco.

Lugo went from president to disgraced leader in less than 48 hours.

The former Catholic bishop was unpopular with lawmakers, and many had concerns about his credibility after he he admitted to fathering at least two children while still in the priesthood. In all, four women claim they had babies by Lugo while he was bishop.

But nine days ago, there was no reason to believe that Lugo would find himself out of a job before his term ended in August 2013.

Then Paraguay impeached its president so fast that its neighbors needed a few days to figure out how to react.

By Sunday, Brazil and Uruguay were expressing deep concerns. Brazil's foreign ministry condemned the president's removal and Uruguay's president said it wasn't in line with democratic practices.

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There had been calls in the past for the impeachment of Lugo, but the scandals did not rock his position too much.

That changed on June 15, when police and landless peasants clashed in eastern Paraguay, resulting in 17 deaths.

Peasants fired on police who were trying to evict them from private property, initiating the deadly confrontation, local authorities and state-run media said.

The violence occurred in Curuguaty, a remote community about 240 kilometers (150 miles) northeast of the Paraguayan capital, Asuncion, near the Brazilian border.

In response to the incident, Lugo replaced his national police chief and interior minister. The country's liberal party, which backed Lugo, were incensed to learn that the new minister was from another party.

As the outcry over the deadly clash continued, the liberal party announced Thursday that it was withdrawing its support of Lugo, and an impeachment vote was heard in the lower chamber of congress that day. The vote in favor of impeachment was 76-1.

The next day, Lugo's defense team had two hours to defend Lugo from what it call vague charges of incompetence. The Senate impeached the president in a 39-4 vote.

That was it.

Lugo said Paraguayan history and democracy had been "deeply wounded."

The presidents of Venezuela, Argentina, Bolivia, Ecuador and the Dominican Republic said they will not recognize Franco's administration.

Mexico's foreign ministry and Venezuela's Chavez said the speed in which Lugo was removed didn't give him time to mount a proper defense.

Franco reiterated that the impeachment happened within the parameters of the constitution, and pointed to the large margins by which Lugo was voted out of office.

"It means that here we have a unanimous position. The Paraguayan people, I think, are satisfied with this decision," he said.

Despite the cold shoulder from neighboring countries, Franco said he will reach out and explain the legality of Lugo's ouster and seeks to have good international relations.

His goal is for Paraguay to be recognized internationally by the time he hands the government over to the next president next year, he said.

Most of the countries opposed to Franco's presidency belong to the Union of South American Nations, known as UNASUR. The foreign ministers of that regional body were in Paraguay to study the issue.

The United States also weighed in a more neutral manner.

"We urge all Paraguayans to act peacefully, with calm and responsibility, in the spirit of Paraguay's democratic principles," State Department spokeswoman Darla Jordan said.

CNN's Mariano Castillo, Marilia Brocchetto and Fernando del Rincon contributed to this report.

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