BUENOS AIRES, May 7 (UPI) -- Paraguay's beleaguered president Fernando Lugo opened his heart to peers attending the Union of South American Nations summit, warning he faced the threat of a Honduras-style coup that could unseat him.
Lugo's startling concerns were voiced behind closed doors at the newly formed Union of South American Nations, which met in the Argentine capital this week.
UNASUR officials remained reticent about revealing details of the meeting, held on the sidelines of the summit, but a joint statement after the talks declared support for Lugo, a Roman Catholic bishop who made history when he won election in 2008 on the ashes of an internal feud within the dominant Colorado Party.
His triumph after 60 years of Colorado's sway over Paraguayan politics instantly won him political enemies throughout the land.
The coalition Lugo formed upon inauguration, a fragile patchwork of divergent parties and groups, began to unravel soon afterward amid colliding vested interests and aversion to a priest in the presidential palace.
His coalition partner and deputy, Vice President Federico Franco, soon emerged as an arch-rival.
Although UNASUR heard comparisons with the Honduras crisis, there is little similarity between the scenarios, analysts said.
In Honduras, the judiciary and parliament got together to eject President Jose Manuel Zelaya in June 2009, with the military's help, when they feared he might be trying to manipulate the constitutional processes to prolong his term.
The coup damaged Honduras' international standing, wrecked the economy and split the nation. Zelaya's replacement by President Porfirio Lobo in an election organized by the coup leaders remains controversial and Honduras' problems are far from over.
A Spanish-led attempt to rehabilitate Lobo through participation in an European-Latin American summit in Madrid was in tatters Friday after Lobo, stung by continuing criticism of his legitimacy, canceled his attendance.
In Lugo's case, analysts likened the Paraguayan politics to a free-for-all, with presidential authority constantly under assault from his No. 2 and other critics within the administration.
Analysts said Lugo's opponents wanted to put across the notion that only his removal -- by whatever means, including a coup -- could restore normalcy to Paraguay.
Paraguay's case could also form part of a wider strategy by UNASUR's newly chosen Secretary-General Nestor Kirchner, former president and husband of Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, analysts said.
Fernandez has been fighting her own feud with Argentine Vice President Julio Cobos, who has resisted attempts to have him removed from office.
The troubles being faced by Lugo are inconvenient for Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who has been campaigning for his country's inclusion in Mercosur trading bloc but has faced opposition from Lugo's rivals in the Paraguayan congress.
Last month Venezuela urged Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva to use his influence to secure ratification of Venezuela's Mercosur membership -- good for other Mercosur members seeking new markets and critical for Chavez's image-building machine.
Lula is also in the frame as a possible intermediary between Lugo and his political foes in Paraguayan congress. Analysts said Lula was better placed than UNASUR's Kirchner to play a mediating role to forestall any attempt to oust Lugo from power.
|Additional Special Reports Stories|