New Paraguay leader turns pariah


Paraguay’s new president was barred Sunday from participating in a summit of South American presidents next week, deepening the country’s isolation over the ouster of former president Fernando Lugo.

Argentina’s foreign ministry said the move was adopted by the other members and associate states of Mercosur, a South American trading bloc that is scheduled to meet Thursday and Friday in Mendoza, Argentina.

The statement expressed the group’s “most energetic condemnation of the rupture of the democratic order that occurred in the Republic of Paraguay, for not having respected due process.”

The summit had loomed as a key test for Paraguay’s President Federico Franco, who has so far failed to gain international recognition for the government that replaced Lugo.

Lugo told reporters earlier Sunday that he planned to go to the summit, calling his sudden impeachment and ouster by a Senate vote on Friday a “parliamentary coup d’etat.”

Franco’s government “is a false government,” Lugo added. “The public does not accept a government that has broken the institution of the republic. You cannot collaborate with a government that its people do not consider legitimate.”

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“We will undertake every sort of peaceful protest (to press) for the return of constitutional order that was interrupted,” Lugo said.

Paraguay’s newly named Foreign Minister Jose Felix Fernandez had said he would attend the summit with a Paraguayan delegation. Franco had indicated he might not go if his presence would make matters worse.

The Union of South American Nations, UNASUR, also was preparing to hold a meeting in Lima in the coming days to discuss the situation in Paraguay, which currently holds the presidency of the regional grouping.

Lugo said he had communicated with Peru’s President Ollanta Humala, whose country is next in line to be president of the group.

“We are going to move up that transfer (of the presidency)… also for next week,” Lugo said.

Lugo, a leftist former Catholic priest, was hauled before the Senate on Friday to face charges that he had poorly managed a land dispute that erupted in an armed clash June 15 between police and squatters.

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