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Paraguay to ‘move forward’ with Mercosur

Newly appointed Paraguayan Foreign Minister Eladio Loizaga attends Horacio Cartes’ swearing-in ceremony in Asunción yesteday.

Country readmitted to bloc after year-long suspension following Lugo ouster

ASUNCIóN — Paraguay will “move forward” in its relations with Mercosur without dwelling on what happened in the past, the country’s new foreign minister, Eladio Loizaga, said yesterday just after the swearing-in ceremony of Paraguayan President Horacio Cartes.

Paraguay has formally been readmitted to the bloc after being suspended for more than a year, following the ouster of former president Fernando Lugo last year.

The country’s suspension from the South American bloc was voted by Mercosur members at the same summit in which they decided that Venezuela would be allowed to enter.

“The president has already said what direction we are going to take in terms of foreign relations. He leads and the Foreign Ministry follows, so that is the direction we are taking,” Loizaga said.

The newly-appointed foreign minister avoided saying if he was planning to reestablish ties with Venezuela. He said he would not talk about Caracas “on this brilliant day in which we have consolidated democracy and completed the transition in peace”.

Lugo was impeached by Congress in June last year on five charges of malfeasance in office, including an alleged role in a deadly confrontation between police and landless farmers that left 17 dead. Mercosur members said his ouster amounted to a “coup” and suspended Paraguay from the bloc.

During yesterday’s swearing-in ceremony, Cartes thanked Argentine President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner and Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff for their presence and “their initiatives to build prosperous and positive relations” that will benefit the people.

Venezuelan

congratulatory letter

Despite the face-off between the two countries, Venezuela’s President Nicolás Maduro congratulated Cartes yesterday and invited him to work with him to reestablish bilateral ties. Relations between the two countries were suspended a year ago when Asunción denounced Caracas had interfered in its domestic affairs by trying to convince military leaders to stand up for Lugo after his ouster.

“In the name of the people and the government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela I want to congratulate you on the day of your swearing-in as the president of the Republic of Paraguay,” Maduro wrote in a letter sent to Cartes.

Though he was not invited to the swearing-in ceremony, Maduro ratified the commitment he made weeks ago to do everything in his “power” to have Paraguay “readmitted to Mercosur”. Caracas currently holds the bloc’s temporary presidency.

“As I said on the phone, I ratify the Bolivarian government’s good will to have the best possible relations with Paraguay and its government,” he added.

Maduro’s letter highlights, however, Caracas’ concern about a “ferocious media campaign” against Venezuela in Paraguay which, he believes, “wants to stop (the two countries) from finding a political solution to our problems.” He urged Cartes to do everything in his power “to avoid divisions.”

Herald with Télam, online media

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