Leaders of the Mercosur trade bloc announced here Friday the suspension of charter member Paraguay after lawmakers in Asuncion removed the country's president in an impeachment process that took less than a day.
At the same time, the presidents of Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay decided to complete the accession of oil-rich Venezuela, stalled since 2006 due to opposition from the Paraguayan Congress.
Argentina's Cristina Fernandez said Venezuela will become a full member of the trade bloc at a July 31 event in Rio de Janeiro.
The addition of Venezuela will make Mercosur stronger as it confronts turbulence in the global economy, she said.
"We resolved to temporarily suspend Paraguay until a democratic process is carried out, with free and democratic elections in which they choose a new president," Fernandez said.
Power in Asuncion is currently in the hands of erstwhile Vice President Federico Franco, who was sworn-in last Friday within 90 minutes of the Senate vote to remove Lugo.
Mercosur's charter identifies fully functioning democracy as an essential condition for the process of regional integration.
Fernandez, Brazilian counterpart Dilma Rousseff and Uruguayan President Jose Mujica rejected imposing economic sanctions on Paraguay and insisted that the temporary suspension does "not diminish the commitment to the development" of the bloc's poorest member.
Lugo, who attended the gathering in Mendoza, said the suspension of Paraguay was consistent with Mercosur's rules. EFE