Cesar Olmedo, Associated Press
ASUNCION, Paraguay — Paraguay's newly sworn-in president set about forming a new government Saturday as he promised to honor foreign commitments, respect private property and reach out to Latin American leaders to minimize diplomatic fallout and keep his country from becoming a regional pariah.
In a brief appearance before international journalists, Federico Franco tried to broadcast a sense of normality a day after lawmakers overwhelmingly voted to kick President Fernando Lugo out of office.
"The country is calm. I was elected (as vice president) in 2008 by popular vote. Activity is normal and there is no protest," Franco said.
His first two appointments were Interior Minister Carmelo Caballero, who will be tasked with maintaining public order in this poor, landlocked South American nation, and Foreign Minister Jose Felix Fernandez, who will immediately hit the road to try to appease fellow members of the Mercosur and Unasur regional trade blocs.
"Our foreign minister will go to Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay to meet with authorities and explain to them that there was no break with democracy here. The transition of power through political trial is established in the national constitution," Franco said.
The Paraguayan Senate voted 39-4 the previous day to dismiss Lugo a little more than a year before his five-year term was to end, and Franco took the oath of office soon after. Lugo's ouster drew swift condemnation around Latin America from leaders who called it a de facto coup, and several presidents said they would seek Paraguay's expulsion from regional groups.
"This goes beyond Fernando Lugo. It goes beyond Paraguay. It's about true democracy for all of our America," said Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa, adding that his country will not recognize the new government.
Cuba called it a "parliamentary coup d'etat executed against the constitutional President Fernando Lugo and the brother people of Paraguay."
Criticism came not just from the left but from conservative governments, too.
Chile said Lugo's removal "did not comply with the minimum standards of due process," and Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos said "legal procedures shouldn't be used to abuse. ... What we want is to help stability and democracy be maintained in Paraguay."
Given the tough talk, Franco could find mending fences to be a tall order.
"It looks terrible throughout the region," said analyst Adam Isacson of the Washington Office on Latin America, a think tank. "It (Lugo's ouster) doesn't look like a deliberative process, and what it looks like is that a president can be removed simply for being unpopular, or making unpopular decisions."
"The new government is going to be pretty isolated for the whole time that it's in power," Isacson said. "For Paraguay's neighbors and trade partners, I think there's probably not great cost involved in isolating the country for a year or more, and then re-recognizing whatever government is elected next year."
That would be a scenario similar to what played out in Honduras following the June 2009 ouster of Manuel Zelaya, which was also portrayed by those who took over as a legal, constitutional transition, even as it was denounced elsewhere.
Honduras' interim president was isolated by many Latin American governments, and his elected successor, Porfirio Lobo, only really got in the good graces of some in 2011 after Venezuela's Hugo Chavez brokered a reconciliation deal with Zelaya.
Lugo resigned as a Roman Catholic bishop to run for president in 2008 against the wishes of Pope Benedict XVI, who grudgingly accepted the resignation when it became clear Lugo would not be dissuaded.
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