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Mercosur suspends Paraguay, welcomes Venezuela


Paraguay's impeached President Fernando Lugo says his opponents have staged a coup. But Lugo will still represent Paraguay in regional circles among allies who still regard him as the South American country's rightful president.


Norberto Duarte

The Mercosur trade bloc will make Venezuela a full member next month as it suspended Paraguay for impeaching President Fernando Lugo.

The South American group's leftist leaders decided at a presidential summit on Friday to extend Paraguay's suspension until the country restores democracy during its next elections, scheduled for April 2013, reported Reuters. No economic sanctions were imposed on Paraguay, but its officials are banned from Mercosur meetings.

"The Mercosur will respect the wishes of the Paraguayan people by having free and democratic elections," Argentina's President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner said about the decision during the summit, according to the Buenos Aires Herald.

The inclusion of Venezuela as a full member of Mercosur was also announced at the meeting, reported BBC News. Venezuela had waited six years to become a permanent member of the group, and its application was approved by the bloc's three other members — Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay — although Paraguayan congress attempted to block it.

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Reuters also reported that Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff praised the new inclusion, saying "food and energy security are becoming more and more relevant" globally.

According to the Associated Press, Paraguay's President Fernando Lugo was impeached by his country's congress a week ago in a fast-track trial said to be triggered by the way he handled clashes between police and farmers in which 17 people were killed.