Top stories this week are likely to include: effect of Fernando Lugo’s impeachment; Supreme Court verdict on Arizona’s immigration law; Mexico elects a new government; Julian Assange’s asylum request to Ecuador; and Mercosur summit in Argentina.
Backlash to Lugo’s Ouster: After former Paraguayan President Fernando Lugo was impeached last Friday by the opposition-dominated legislature in a 39-4 vote, his vice president, Federico Franco, was sworn in later that evening as the country’s new head of state. Lugo, while accepting the decision of Congress, likened the move to a “parliamentary coup.” Franco belongs to the same coalition—the Patriotic Alliance for Change—as Lugo, who was ousted due to his handling of deadly land clashes the week prior that killed at least 17 people. In response, Brazil, Chile, Uruguay, and Venezuela removed their ambassadors to Paraguay while other countries such as Colombia recalled its ambassador in Asunción for consultations. According to CNN, the governments in Venezuela, Argentina, Bolivia, Ecuador, and the Dominican Republic said they will not recognize Franco as the legitimate leader of Paraguay. It was just announced this morning that Paraguay will be suspended from this week’s Mercosur summit in Mendoza, Argentina, although Lugo will still attend. However, pay attention for any official declarations from Mercosur later this week on the Paraguay situation. Notes AQ Editor-in-Chief Christopher Sabatini, “As we saw in the case of Honduras in 2009, democratic institutions and rules—when weak—can be manipulated to undemocratic ends. In both cases, presidents were denied fundamental rights of due process. I fully expect that at the Mercosur summit member governments will take action to threaten punishment of the post-Lugo government. UNASUR will likely do the same. The question is: Will anyone care if the OAS does?”
Supreme Court Verdict on SB 1070: The U.S. Supreme Court verdict on Arizona’s restrictive immigration legislation—SB 1070—was delivered this morning, which invalidated three of the four controversial provisions of the law but did uphold the “papers please” provision, which permits police officers to ask for documentation from anyone they suspect of being in Arizona illegally. This ruling could have ripple effects in other U.S. states that have adopted similar legislation, such as Utah, Indiana, Alabama, Georgia, and South Carolina. AQ Senior Editor Jason Marczak observes: “Today’s ruling is a partial victory for the rights of immigrants and for any American who may appear to be an immigrant. By blocking three of the four provisions, including the section that would have allowed police officers to arrest anyone if there was probable cause of their being in the U.S. without authorization, the Court by and large held firm that federal regulations must supersede the growing patchwork of state-level immigration laws. It is unfortunate that the Court upheld the bill’s provision whereby police officers can conduct status checks, but it did severely restrict when and how those checks can be applied.”
Mexico Elections on Sunday: Aside from the presidency, all 628 seats in the Mexican legislature (500 in the Chamber of Deputies, 128 in the Senate) are up for grabs in the nationwide election on Sunday, July 1. In addition, the executive and legislative branches of the Federal District government will be chosen as well as the governorships in the states of Guanajuato, Jalisco and Morelos. While Partido Revolucionario Institucional (Institutional Revolutionary Party—PRI) presidential candidate Enrique Peña Nieto looks poised for victory as he has led the polls for months, a Barclays Capital analysis predicts a PRI win in Congress.
Assange’s Asylum Request: WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange broke terms of his house arrest in London last week when he sought refuge in Ecuador’s embassy to the United Kingdom, claiming asylum under the UN Declaration on Human Rights. Sweden is seeking Assange’s extradition from the UK based on sexual assault charges; Assange fears that Sweden will turn him over to the United States. Ecuadorian Foreign Minister Ricardo Patiño has said that Ecuador is considering the request, based on Assange’s account that he is being persecuted. Sabatini says that an agreement from Ecuador to take in Assange “would be said because he would effectively be given asylum for rape charges, not as a martyr for freedom of expression.”
Mercosur Assembly in Mendoza: An annual meeting of Mercosur members and observers is taking place this week in Mendoza, as Argentina holds the rotating presidency of the trade bloc. Higher-level meetings will occur on Thursday and Friday. While this summit has been planned for months, Friday’s news of Lugo’s ouster—Paraguay is a founding member of Mercosur—has thrown Paraguay’s future status in the alliance under speculation. A statement this morning from the Argentine foreign ministry, signed by all Mercosur nations, “energetically condemns the rupture of the democratic order in the Republic of Paraguay for not having respected the right to due process.” Observes Sabatini, “Watch for the member governments to take formal action to isolate the post-Lugo government.”