New president in Paraguay non grata in Argentina

A South American trading bloc has barred Paraguay’s new president, Federico Franco, from participating in an upcoming summit, following the ouster of former president Fernando Lugo.

Mercosur says Paraguay will not be allowed to take part in its meeting this week in Argentina. A Mercosur statement, issued by the Argentine foreign ministry, expressed the group’s “most energetic condemnation of the rupture of the democratic order” in Paraguay.

Lugo says he will attend the Mercosur summit. Meanwhile, Paraguay’s newly appointed foreign minster, Jose Fernández, said he will represent Paraguay at the summit.

Lawmakers in Paraguay voted last week to impeach Lugo, after a botched eviction earlier this month of peasant squatters that left several dead. In line with Paraguay’s constitution, Lugo was replaced by Vice President Franco, who had been a strong opponent of the president.

Lugo has denounced his ouster as a parliamentary coup.

Meanwhile, Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez says his government will halt fuel sales to Paraguay.

Brazil and Argentina have withdrawn their top diplomats from Paraguay, while Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador and Cuba have said they would not recognize the new administration. Critics of the impeachment complained that Lugo’s lawyers had only a few hours to defend him in the Senate, which voted 39 to 4 in favor of his removal.

The impeached president is a former Roman Catholic bishop who was elected in 2008 on promises to help the poor and distribute land fairly.

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