ASUNCION, Paraguay (AP) — Paraguay's former President Fernando Lugo must testify in an investigation over alleged Venezuelan meddling during his impeachment, prosecutors said Tuesday.
Lugo was voted out of office June 22 by a hostile Congress after a fast-track trial over his role in a deadly land eviction. He was replaced by his vice president, Federico Franco. But the poor, landlocked country's new government has accused Venezuela's Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro of trying to persuade Paraguayan military leaders to rise up in support of Lugo.
"The former president must show up at the office of the public prosecutor by Monday to continue with the probe," said Prosecutor Stella Mary Cano, who has already heard the testimony of four generals as well two former Lugo officials. Cano said if Lugo fails to show up, eventually "we could use the public force to bring him in following the law."
The AP tried to contact Lugo through two of his former personal assistants but they said they no longer work with the former leader and are themselves looking for a job. Lugo's lawyer declined to comment.
Maduro traveled to Asuncion a day before Lugo was ousted from the presidency as part of delegation of ministers from the Unasur South American group that met with lawmakers to try to avert his ouster.
According to testimony by Marcial Congo, the former leader's private secretary, Maduro briefly met with military leaders during Lugo's hasty trial. Paraguay's Defense Minister Maria Liz Arnold has said the Venezuelan official asked them to back the former Roman Catholic bishop-turned-president.
"We were sent as Unasur ministers and we did our job talking with all sectors of Paraguayan society and offering South America's solidarity to avoid this embarrassing act against the constitution, the president and the Paraguayan people," Maduro told reporters in response to the accusations late last month .
After Lugo's ousting, the Unasur ministers returned to their countries but Maduro stayed behind to support Lugo.
"It cannot be determined yet if Maduro asked army, navy and air force brass to ignore Lugo's political trial and therefore qualify this act as foreign interference in the affairs of Paraguay," Cano said.
"But what can be confirmed is that Maduro met with military leaders inside the presidential palace," she added. "According to testimony provided by the generals Adalberto Garcete, Miguel Christ y Juan Carlos Benítez ... he only said Lugo's impeachment would result in international sanctions against Paraguay."
Associated Press writer Fabiola Sanchez in Caracas contributed to this report.