Latin America & Caribbean

Mercosur suspends Paraguay over Lugo impeachment

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Media captionThe BBC's Vladimir Hernandez reports on the Mercosur's move

The Mercosur trade bloc has suspended Paraguay over the impeachment of President Fernando Lugo on 22 June.

The presidents of Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay said Paraguay would remain outside the bloc until the next presidential election in April.

But at the end of a two-day summit in Argentina they decided not to impose sanctions on Paraguay.

They also announced that Venezuela would now become a full member of Mercosur.

Venezuela's application to join the Mercosur as a permanent member had been approved by the bloc's three other members, but blocked by the Paraguayan congress.

With Paraguay suspended, the doors were opened for Venezuela, South America's main oil producer.

Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner said the bloc decided to suspend Paraguay "until a democratic process allows for popular sovereignty to be restored".

Mr Lugo was removed over his role in the eviction of landless farmers two weeks ago, which ended with the deaths of 17 people, including policemen and peasants.

Regional leaders described the dismissal of Paraguay's first left-wing president as a parliamentary coup.

Image caption President Franco was banned from attending the Mendoza summit

Mr Lugo was impeached by the Senate after being given less than 24 hours to prepare his defence.

The Senate voted overwhelmingly to dismiss Mr Lugo, a former Catholic bishop who left the priesthood in 2006 and became Paraguay's president two years later.

Hours later, his vice-president, Federico Franco, from the Liberal Party, was sworn in.

Paraguay was immediately suspended, temporarily, from the regional trade bloc.

The gathering had been scheduled before last week's developments.

But it was inevitably taken over by discussions on what measures to impose against the new Paraguayan government.

Paraguay is one of the four founding members of Mercosur, along with Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay.

Its economy relies heavily on trade within the bloc.

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