ASUNCION, Paraguay (AP) — The lower house of Paraguay’s opposition-controlled congress voted Thursday to impeach leftist President Fernando Lugo for his role in a deadly clash involving landless farmers, adding to the South American nation’s political turmoil.
Lugo immediately appeared on national television and promised to face a possible impeachment trial “with all its consequences,” dismissing rumors that he might resign.
The lower house approved the impeachment trial by a vote of 76-1. The motion now goes to the opposition controlled Senate, where the trial would be held if approved.
Lugo, whose election in 2008 ended 61 years of rule by the Colorado Party, has long clashed with a congress, where he has few firm allies .
Critics blame him for the violence that erupted last week when police tried to evict about 150 farmers from the 4,900-acre (2,000)-hectare reserve, which is part of a huge estate owned by a Colorado Party politician. Advocates for the farmers say the landowner used political influence to get the land from the state decades ago, and say it should have been put it to use for land reform.
Seventeen people died in the clash.
Lugo, 63, has expressed sorrow at the confrontation and accepted the resignations of his interior minister and his chief of police.
Paraguay is the world’s No.4 supplier of soybeans and land disputes have risen in recent years as farmers seek more land to grow the country’s top export earner.
Lugo, who resigned as a Catholic bishop to run for the presidency, had promised farmland for 87,000 landless families. But with as he nears the end of his term next year, he has failed to deliver, partly because his programs have been blocked in the legislature.
On Thursday, he urged lawmakers to do all they can to avoid an impeachment trial, warning that it could be resisted by many citizens who back him and that it could put them on the wrong side of history.
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