Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 1 October 2014

Paraguay faces Mercosur suspension

Paraguay's former president Fernando Lugo was ousted by Congress last week (AP)

South American foreign ministers plan to recommend that Paraguay be suspended from the Mercosur regional trade bloc over last week's ousting of former president Fernando Lugo, Brazil's foreign minister said.

But Antonio Patriota said that ministers attending a bloc summit in Mendoza, Argentina will recommend against economic sanctions in retaliation for the impeachment of Mr Lugo.

Speaking to a small group of journalists outside closed-door meetings, Mr Patriota said he could not give any further details about Paraguay's possible suspension, nor say how long it might last.

Mercosur's final decision on what to do about Paraguay will be announced on Friday following a meeting of regional heads of state.

"We have been working on a resolution that will be taken tomorrow ... as you all might have anticipated, it is the suspension of Paraguay's participation from the workings of Mercosur," Mr Patriota told reporters after meeting with his Argentinian, Uruguayan and Venezuelan counterparts.

Mr Lugo, a former Catholic bishop whose presidency was marred by a cancer scare and several paternity scandals, was ousted last Friday by Congress in a fast trial triggered by a land eviction that killed people in gunbattles between police and landless peasants.

Mercosur barred Mr Lugo's replacement, former Vice President Federico Franco, from attending the meetings.

Mr Franco said the transition of power in Paraguay was carried out according to the law and that now "the country is absolutely normalised".

Mr Franco also said the current ban on his government attending the meeting of the Mercosur - which also includes Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay - was punishment enough. "This political sanction, God will help us manage it and it will give us the wisdom to soon find a solution to this problem," he said.

Mr Lugo had initially said he would attend the summit in order to plead his case with regional leaders but later changed his mind. He later spoke out against retaliatory economic sanctions, which he said would only hurt ordinary Paraguayans.

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