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The Next Honduras

While I was off gallivanting in England, Paraguay had a coup.

Mind you, the oligarchs who staged the coup against populist Fernando Lugo cloaked it in legalistic niceties–though they’re about as convincing as (and may have taken their cue from) the Clinton impeachment.

But those legalistic niceties are not persuading Paraguay’s neighbors, who are  considering ways to pressure the government in response.

Neighboring leftist governments were rallying to support Mr. Lugo. Argentine President Cristina Kirchner called the impeachment process a coup and recalled her country’s ambassador to Paraguay “until democratic order is re-established,” the foreign ministry said in a statement Saturday.

Regional economic powerhouse Brazil condemned the impeachment and called back its ambassador for consultations while it weighs its response. The blistering pace of the impeachment proceedings didn’t give Mr. Lugo a chance to prepare an adequate defense, compromising “the fundamental pillar of democracy,” Brazil’s foreign ministry said in a statement. The Brazilian statement said that “the rupture of the democratic order in Paraguay” would be evaluated by regional trade and political groups, including Mercosur, a trade bloc comprising Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay.

What’s most striking to me is the widespread recognition–even at the WSJ–that this bears similarities to the 2009 Honduran coup.

Mr. Lugo’s impeachment raises the specter of a repetition of the long diplomatic hiatus that followed the coup that deposed Honduran President Manuel Zelaya in 2009. Honduras wasn’t readmitted to the Organization of American States until mid-2011.

Which makes Democracy Now guest Greg Grandin’s comments about those similarities particularly worth noting.

GREG GRANDIN: Well, it was interesting. The first interview, I take, was before the Honduran coup in 2009, when Lugo said that a coup would be unthinkable. And so, Honduras—it shows you how Honduras kind of changes the rules of the game, emboldened the right, presented new tactic, new ways of limiting this kind of—

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The Venezuela Bust

It’s bad enough that the United States, a country that has provided election funds for its favored candidates in other countries for over fifty years (including, notably, Argentina and Venezuela), is now criminalizing the purported $800,000 donation from Hugo Chávez to Cristina Fernández de Kirchner in Argentina. It’s bad enough that it stinks of yet another silly anti-Chávez campaign.

But the criminal complaint just doesn’t make any sense.

Here’s the Miami Herald’s description of the purported crime.

Their mission from the Chávez government, prosecutors say: to hush up a local Venezuelan man who was caught in August with a suitcase full of campaign cash as he arrived at a Buenos Aires airport with a high-ranking Argentine official. They pressured him not to reveal the source of the cash or its recipient.

And here are excerpts from some of the conversations between the accused and Guido Alejandro Antonini Wilson, the guy caught carrying the $800,000 in Argentina.

At that meeting, FRANKLIN DURAN revealed to Guido Alejandro Antonini Wilson the identity of the candidate in the Argentine Republic presidential campaign who was intended to receive the approximately $800,000 which had been confiscated at Aeroparque Jorge Newberry in Buenos Aires, Argentina. FRANKLIN DURAN further advised Guido Alejandro Antonini Wilson that he (Duran) had spoken with a very high ranking official of DISIP, and a very high ranking official of the Justice Ministry of Venezuela, concerning the aborted donation. Read more