By Marcos Brindicci
It was another one of those calls asking me, “Could you go to…”, one of the situations that photographers long for.
A new presidential crisis in Paraguay seemed ready to become a violent one because all the elements were there; armed clashes between landless peasant farmers and police had ended with 17 people killed (11 farmers and 6 policemen), the interior minister had resigned, and Congress was voting to impeach President Fernando Lugo. I cancelled my trip to northern Argentina for a rugby test match and booked the first flight to Asuncion, the next morning. As I arrived, I headed straight for Congress, where demonstrations were already underway as the impeachment trial began.
The impeachment trial happened lightning fast, as Congress gave Lugo only a couple of hours to prepare his defense. The Senate voted 39-4 to remove him the day after lawmakers in the Lower House agreed in a sudden, near-unanimous vote to impeach him. I had my tear gas mask with me, and Reuters’ veteran Paraguay photographer Jorge Adorno and stringer Mario Valdez were ready, but nothing really happened. At one point, as I was waiting at the Presidential Palace for Lugo to appear, we got word of clashes developing in front of the Congress, but it was just a small incident that was short-lived.
After taking Lugo’s picture at the Palace and filing it to the wire I went back to Congress to find it calm, in spite of the number of riot policemen and demonstrators.
Nobody thought it would stay that way for long. We had all expected hours or days of clashes. That was the norm in Paraguay’s unstable political past.