Ousted Paraguay leader challenges successor

Condemns his ouster as 'parliamentary coup d'etat'

Ousted Paraguayan president Fernando Lugo confirmed on Monday his attendance at a Mercosur summit, a direct challenge to his successor, whose administration has been barred from the trading bloc.

Argentina announced on Sunday that new Paraguay President Federico Franco, who has so far failed to gain international recognition for his government, was not welcome at the meeting on Thursday and Friday in the city of Mendoza.

After discussions with his cabinet in the Paraguayan capital Asuncion, Lugo, who has condemned his sudden impeachment and ouster as a "parliamentary coup d'etat," has confirmed that he still plans to attend the summit.

"We asked Argentine President Cristina Kirchner to have a presence at this meeting so we could explain in detail what has happened here over the past week," Lugo told a press conference.

The ousted 61-year-old leader, who had less than nine months to serve and was not seeking re-election as president of one of Latin America's poorest countries, told AFP he planned also to attend an upcoming meeting of UNASUR.

The Union of South American Nations has said it is preparing to hold a meeting in Lima, Peru in the coming days to discuss the situation in Paraguay, which currently holds the presidency of the regional grouping.

The suspension of Paraguay's official government from Mercosur was adopted on Sunday by the group's full members and associate states -- Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, Venezuela, Chile, Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru.

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."

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.

Six police officers and 11 landless peasants were killed in an exchange of gunfire that erupted when police tried to evict the squatters from land owned by a wealthy opponent of Lugo.

Oil-rich Venezuela, whose membership of Mercosur has been blocked by Paraguay, recalled its ambassador to Asuncion and halted oil shipments over the move, with Chavez saying he would do nothing to support "this coup."

Chavez likened the turn of events in Paraguay to the coup that toppled Honduras' president Manuel Zelaya in June 2009, which plunged the Central American country into an 18-month-long constitutional crisis.

Argentina and Ecuador have also pulled their ambassador from the country, while Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, Peru and Uruguay have recalled their envoys for consultations. El Salvador said it would not recognise the new government.
 

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