Two major South American groups have suspended the membership of Paraguay for having impeached and ousted its president. But the trade bloc Mercosur stopped short of imposing trade sanctions on the impoverished country.
UNASUR, the Union of South American Nations, on Friday suspended Paraguay's membership, while the regional trade bloc Mercosur extended its suspension of the country over the ouster of its president, Fernando Lugo.
Speaking at a Mercosur summit in the Argentine city of Mendoza, Argentine President Cristina Fernandez said Lugo's fast-track trial indicated that the "democratic order was broken" in Paraguay.
The country's suspension from Mercosur was extended until it holds presidential elections next year.
But Fernandez said no sanctions would be imposed on Paraguay, because "they never hurt governments. They always hurt the people."
Economic sanctions would be disastrous for Paraguay, as half of its trade is with fellow Mercosur founding members Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay.
Way clear for Venezuela
Shortly after the Mercosur meeting, the UNASUR group of South American nations, also gathered in Mendoza, joined the trade bloc in suspending Paraguay over the ouster of its president. It handed the pro-tempore presidency to Peru for 12 months.
The suspension of Paraguay from Mercosur has been good news for Venezuela, whose full membership of the trade bloc had been opposed by Paraguayan lawmakers as the sole obstacle.
The Andean nation will now be fully incorporated into Mercosur on July 31 at a meeting in Rio de Janeiro.
"This is a historic day for ... integration," Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez told the Caracas-based Telesur television station by telephone.
"This is win-win for everybody."
Paraguay's Lugo was impeached by the country's Congress a week ago in a trial lasting just hours. His removal from office was sparked by clashes over a land eviction in which 17 police and landless peasants died.
Former vice president and new Paraguayan president, Federico Franco, has defended the constitutionality of the impeachment trial, saying the transition of power was carried out according to the law.
Paraguay's new foreign minister, Jose Felix Fernandez Estigarribia has condemned both the decision to suspend his country from Mercosur and to accord Venezuela full membership.
"The government deplores that other member states have sanctioned Paraguay and its government so as to incorporate a new member before the conclusion of a necessary approvals process," he said.
tj/mz (AP, Reuters)