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EU commission investigates Paraguayan impeachment

By the CNN Wire Staff
updated 4:13 PM EDT, Mon July 16, 2012
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • An eight-person European Union delegation begins meetings in Paraguay
  • The investigative trip is scheduled to end Wednesday
  • Fernando Lugo was ousted in less than 48 hours during an impeachment last month
  • Some neighboring countries have described the quick impeachment as a coup

Asuncion, Paraguay (CNN) -- A delegation from the European Parliament began a mission in Paraguay Monday to investigate the impeachment of former President Fernando Lugo.

The eight-person group's visit will include meetings with Lugo, President Federico Franco, government ministers and court officials. The trip is scheduled to end Wednesday.

Earlier this month, European Parliament President Martin Schulz said representatives were very concerned about the situation in the South American country.

Observers this week will assess the situation and "draw the necessary consequences," Shulz said.

The European Union is Paraguay's fourth most important trading partner, after Brazil, Argentina and the United States, according to the European Commission. Officials have not specified whether sanctions could result from the trip.

Lugo went from Paraguay's president to ousted leader in less than 48 hours after lawmakers impeached him last month.

Some Latin American presidents have called it a coup d'etat and refused to recognize the new president.

Several of Paraguay's regional neighbors, including Chile, Venezuela, Brazil and Uruguay, pulled their ambassadors out of the country.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez also said his country would halt all shipments to Paraguay. And the Mercosur South American trade organization suspended Paraguay from its ranks.

The secretary general of the Organization of American States last week recommended against suspending Paraguay from the regional body.

"Rather than encourage sanctions, we should unite in an approach that focuses the organization's support toward dialogue with a medium- and long-range vision that involves Paraguay's political actors in resolving the present state of affairs," Secretary General Jose Miguel Insulza said.

While the impeachment was conducted in accordance with the country's Constitution, "the speed with which the impeachment was conducted was highly unfortunate and created an aura of illegitimacy surrounding the process, whatever the text of the Constitution might say," Insulza said.

Lugo, a former Catholic bishop, was unpopular with lawmakers, and many had concerns about his credibility after 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 a bishop.

There had been calls in the past for the impeachment of Lugo, but the scandals weren't enough to bring him down.

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

In response to the violence, Lugo replaced his national police chief and interior minister. Members of 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 withdrew 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 called vague charges of incompetence. The Senate impeached the president in a 39-4 vote.

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

He has asked the country's Supreme Court to annul the results of the impeachment proceedings.

CNN's Mariano Castillo and journalist Sanie Lopez Garelli contributed to this report.

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