ASUNCION – Former President Fernando Lugo, whose term was cut short by a controversial impeachment, said on Monday that it is Paraguay’s Supreme Court who will decide whether he can take part in the 2018 presidential contest, not the TSJE electoral tribunal, which said he can’t run again for the highest office.
The constitution bars Lugo, now a senator, from seeking another term as president, the TSJE said, ruling on a motion brought by the ruling Colorado Party.
“It will be the Supreme Court of Justice that in the final and only instance will say whether or not our candidacy enjoys constitutional authorization,” Lugo told a press conference.
The Colorados, currently pushing for a constitutional change that would allow incumbent President Horacio Cartes to seek re-election in 2018, asked the TSJE to prohibit Lugo and his Frente Guasu party from engaging in what the ruling party describes as electioneering outside the prescribed election period.
In siding with the Colorados, the TSJE said that Lugo is not eligible to run for president in 2018, a finding that Frente Guasu’s legal counsel described as “illegal.”
Expressing a judgment on the matter of presidential re-election “is beyond the powers and jurisdiction” of the TSJE, Marcos Fariña said during the press conference.
Frente Guasu announced in March that it would pursue legal means to enable Lugo to compete in the 2018 presidential election. Last month, the Colorado Party urged members to file court challenges to a Lugo candidacy.
Lugo, a former Catholic bishop, was elected president in 2008 at the head of a broad-based coalition in favor of reform in the poor, landlocked South American nation.
He was ousted 15 months ahead of the end of his term following what became known as the Curuguaty Massacre.
Eleven peasants and six police officers who died during the events of June 15, 2012, on the Morumbi property, a spread of 2,000 hectares (4,938 acres) in the eastern municipality of Curuguaty.
Authorities had sent more than 300 police officers backed by helicopters to clear peasants off the estate, pursuant to a court order obtained by Morumbi’s owner, prominent politician and businessman Blas N. Riquelme.
On June 22, 2012, the opposition-dominated lower house voted overwhelmingly to impeach Lugo, and the Senate adopted a schedule that called for the president’s trial to begin at 12:00 p.m. the following day and a verdict to be rendered before nightfall.
Only four of the 43 senators present at the session voted against finding Lugo guilty of misfeasance.
Paraguay’s partners in the Mercosur trade bloc characterized Lugo’s removal as a coup and suspended Asuncion from the organization until after Cartes took office in August 2013.