- Title: ARGENTINA: Mercosur suspends Paraguay because of recent impeachment.
- Date: 30th June 2012
- Summary: MENDOZA ARGENTINA (JUNE 28, 2012) (REUTERS) (SOUNDBITE) (Spanish) HECTOR TIMERMAN, ARGENTINE FOREIGN MINISTER, SAYING: "I consider it a painful situation for the other Mercosur members to see a member-state be suspended. We, the UNASUR foreign ministers who were there on Friday, did everything possible to avoid this situation."
- Embargoed: 15th July 2012 13:00
- Location: Argentina
- Country: Argentina
- Topics: International Relations,Politics
- Reuters ID: LVACZACJEX005QVMEXSQKCEDAAPQ
- Story Text: As presidents arrived for a summit of the Mercosur trade bloc, which includes regional heavyweights Brazil and Argentina, the group announced that it will ban Paraguay from attending this week's summit because of concerns over the ousting of the country's president. However, it stopped short of imposing economic sanctions on Paraguay.
Argentine Foreign Minister Hector Timerman announced the unanimous decision.
"Through a unanimous decision by Mercosur's permanent and associate members, it has been decided-- because of the events that occurred last Friday-- to suspend Paraguay's participation in this presidential summit," he said from Mendoza, a small city in western Argentina.
Paraguay's Senate removed Fernando Lugo from office last Friday in an impeachment trial that lasted a matter of hours, prompting criticism in the region and beyond.
Officials said that the suspension would stand until 'democracy was fully restored' in Paraguay.
Bolivian President Evo Morales said his country would not recognize the president installed by congress, Frederico Franco, who was Lugo's vice president and one of his fiercest critics.
"In South America, we have decided ourselves to defend democracy and we very much regret what happened in Paraguay. That will be a main topic (of discussion). And the national (Bolivian) government will not recognize a dictatorship in Paraguay," he said.
Paraguay is one of South America's poorest countries. The landlocked, soy-exporting nation of 6 million people has a long history of political instability and military rule.
During the two-day impeachment trial, the UNASUR group of South American nations sent a delegation of foreign ministers to Asuncion to ask the Paraguayan congress to give Lugo's attorneys more time to build a defence in his impeachment trial.
Timerman said they were unable to delay the process.
"I consider it a painful situation for the other Mercosur members to see a member-state be suspended. We, the UNASUR foreign ministers who were there on Friday, did everything possible to avoid this situation," he said.
Argentine President Cristina Fernandez welcomed the presidents to the summit, which is expected to discuss Paraguay and a free trade proposal by China.
"I want to thank all of you for being here tonight with us and, surely, tomorrow the sessions will start that surely will be very interesting and also, in a certain sense, historic. So I invite you to toast in the first place, for Mercosur, for UNASUR and for democracy, freedom and equality for all of our peoples," she said.
UNASUR will hold an emergency meeting in Mendoza on Friday to discuss Lugo's swift removal, which was sparked by clashes over a land eviction that killed 17 police and peasant farmers.
UNASUR could also suspend Paraguay from its organization, saying Congress denied Lugo the right to a proper defence.
Many countries in the region have called their ambassadors back from Paraguay's capital Asuncion, permanently or for consultations. They want to send a stern warning about the consequences of removing a democratically elected leader, even if Lugo's chances of returning to power appear remote.
Lugo, a former Roman Catholic bishop, admitted it would take a miracle to get him reinstated.
Franco has defended the constitutionality of the impeachment trial, which Paraguay's top court upheld.
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