On June 22, President Fernando Lugo of Paraguay was impeached by the country's senate for “poor performance of duties,” after recent clashes between police and farmers left 17 people dead.
Six police officers and eleven farmers died in the clashes took place on June 15 when police attempted to expel farmers from a piece of land in northeastern Paraguay. The country’s interior minister, Carlos Filizzola, and national police chief Paulino Rojas were forced to resign as a result.
Although Lugo tried to ease the political crisis by forming a commission to investigate the incident, this was not enough to keep the Paraguayan Congress for beginning impeachment proceedings against him for his role in the tragedy.
The Senate, which came together in a special session to try the impeachment, voted to oust President Lugo from office.
While the country’s armed forces vowed to respect the democratic process, outside Congress hundreds of supporters of Lugo clashed with police over the ouster.
On the previous day, the Bishops’ Conference of Paraguay had issued a statement calling “on political leaders, social organizations, unions and the citizenry to maintain calm and avoid any confrontations and violence that would jeopardize the wellbeing and lives of the people.”
Lugo launched his candidacy for the president while still a Catholic bishop, which prompted the Holy See to strip him of his clerical state on July 30, 2008. His impeachment does not mean he can return to his activities as a bishop, contrary to some reports in the media.
“The Holy See, after attempting to dissuade Bishop Fernando Lugo from running as a candidate for President of the Republic (cf. CIC can. 285&2), suspended him from the exercise of the priestly ministry,” the decree explains.
The office “of president of the Republic of Paraguay is not compatible with the obligations of the Episcopal ministry and the clerical state,” it adds.
The Nunciature in Paraguay said that the Church’s action in the case of Lugo “is due exclusively to canonical and pastoral reasons.”