So much strange & crazy

One journalist's musings about the beautiful, bizarre world in which we live

Peace and quiet.

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Peace was the message from speakers at the public mass in Asunción yesterday, held in the square where thousands of people protested as Paraguay’s president was impeached Friday evening.

Reading a message from the Vatican, a Catholic Church representative emphasized the need for peace.

After conveying his condolences to the families of the 17 people killed in gunfights between police and farmers, he asked that “all children of the beloved Paraguayan nation advance forward on the paths of peace, harmony, solidarity and mutual understanding.”

Peace may have been the message, but there was also a heavy police presence in case things were less than peaceful.

Men in black suits with wires hanging out of their ears were positioned at every corner of the crowd. Military personnel armed to the teeth marched around during mass, making their presence known with heavy-booted footsteps. Even the Metropolitan Cathedral was used to house officers, with a man in camouflage peeking out from behind a bell in the belltower.

Before the mass began, about a half-dozen youth were the only protesters gathered in the plaza.

Celso Velázquez was among them. A member of the student movement CREAR, he said he did not support Lugo, but was protesting to support democracy in Paraguay.

“Since Friday, we have been having a peaceful protest for this coup d’état that happened in Paraguay,” he said. “A coup d’état that was disguised and carried out by those contemplating the constitution. They say it was legal, but it was an act against the democratic process in Paraguay.”

Concepción Oviedo was also protesting with the student interest group CREAR before the public mass. She said although the group started with other interests – against the closure of a particular program and for students’ rights – they decided to stand up along with other student organizations against Congress’ decision to sack the president.

“The parlimentarians – the senators and deputies – in one day decided the future of the country, and put in place a person who was not elected [as president] by the citizens in 2008,” she said. “And so, they cut the democratic process that started in 2008.

“We social movements – labour, indigenous, farmers, students, citizens in general – we were some of the protaganists of democracy, that was transitioned to, that was initiated. We want to defend this and we are going to do it.”

* * *

Manifestación en vivo en la TV Pública de Paraguay (bajo censura del dictador Franco desde ayer) http://bit.ly/uBmdHj #noalgolpeenparaguay‬

–  Karina Patrício @patriciokarina

For days, hundreds of protesters have gathered in front of the TV Pública Paraguay.

At first, the station was censored, not allowed to broadcast the footage. When they began broadcasting the protest, they didn’t stop. They opened up a microphone, where anyone can line up to make a comment that goes straight to air.

A fellow I met last night set up this site yesterday (the title translates as “news from Paraguay”) in an attempt to assemble information from social media in one place. It is also running TV Pública’s stream of the protest.

Twitter has been ablaze with comments from and regarding Paraguay, as well.

#NoAlGolpeEnParaguay – “No to the Coup in Paraguay” – has been a popular hashtag over the past few days.

* * *

The impeachment has had diplomatic and economic repercussions, as well.

Argentina and Chile have pulled their ambassadors out of the country. Venezuela has stopped oil shipments to Paraguay.

Franco has been barred from participating in this week’s Mercosur summit, a meeting of Latin American leaders taking place in Mendoza, Argentina.

Brazil called its ambassador home for consultations, releasing a statement saying the “Brazilian government condemns the summary removal of the Paraguayan president … during which the right to a full defense was not assured.”

* * *

As a sidenote, I just read a New York Times’ article about the impeachment. One from Friday, too. The bylines are from Rio de Janeiro, with contributors from Rio de Janeiro and Buenos Aires.

Was there no one amongst the two million who live in Asunción who could write (or contribute to) the story? Do readers know (or care) how far Buenos Aires and Rio are from Paraguay?

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