It has been a momentous week in South America, capped by UNASUR and MERCOSUR’s decisions to suspend Paraguay.
The former, the political grouping of South American nations has decided to maintain Paraguay’s suspension until the next democratic elections in 2013.
Mercosur, its economic free-trade equivalent, has expelled Paraguay, replacing it with Venezuela.
Eight days ago Paraguay’s elected president Fernando Lugo was ousted by Congress and replaced by his deputy, in what Lugo’s supporters claim was a coup in any other name, even if constitutionally valid.
“In the Republic of Paraguay there was no rupture of the democratic order. Mercosur and Unasur’s adopted decisions have no formal or material validity. The Paraguayan government will advance the corresponding legal actions to keep them from taking effect,” said Paraguay’s Foreign Minister José Fernàndez Estigarriba, condemning his country’s exclusion.
But there may be more to this than the continent expressing solidarity with democratic values. Venezuela has been trying to join Mercosur for the last six years, and Mercosur has been keen to integrate the energy-rich nation into its portfolio. It has only been thwarted by opposition from…Paraguay.
This week China offered to draw up a free-trade deal with Mercosur, but this was not referred to in the final declaration from the Presidents’ summit.