Unasur ratifies sanctions; Paraguay president more concerned with OAS position
Unasur ratified on Tuesday Paraguay’s suspension from the block at a meeting of the so called High Level Group in Lima, Peru which assessed the situation of the landlocked country.
“The suspension of Paraguay from Unasur remains in place” said Salomon Lerner, president of the High Level group. He added the decision was based on the reports from South American embassies in Asuncion that remain open but working at second level since ambassadors have been called back to their countries.
“The report was passed on to all the foreign ministries and reveals a relative economic and business normality although there are claims of civil and human rights abuses”, added Lerner, a former Peruvian Prime Minister.
Lerner said the claims refer to followers of removed president Fernando Lugo in the government’s administrative staff although there is no extended alarm, but a few specific cases. Lugo stepped down following political impeachment and was replaced by Vice-president Federico Franco.
Lerner also revealed that the electoral timetable for April 2013, which was part of the Paraguayan political calendar, is being strictly complied with.
The meeting ratified decisions from the Mercosur summit and Unasur extraordinary meeting in Mendoza when Paraguay was suspended from both groups. Unasur also agreed to support the same political position in the coming OAS meeting in Washington next week when the Paraguay issue will be discussed, confirmed Lerner.
The former Peruvian PM said that following Unasur ratification nothing is going to change with the OAS meeting and the Paraguayan current administration will remain “politically isolated”.
Despite the lack of consensus, the US, Canada and Mexico are against sanctions, but consensus will be also absent to validate the “coup” that dumped Lugo or for any other form of political recognition of the new administration anticipated Lerner.
The High Level Group also called on Unasur to closely monitor the Paraguayan electoral process, with observers if necessary, to ensure transparency, respect for human rights and equal opportunities for all participating parties and candidates.
Lerner said the group will meet again before the end of the month for a further assessment of the situation.
From Asunción President Franco downplayed the significance of the Lima meeting regarding the legitimacy of his administration and said that for him it would represent a “promotion” if he was fired from the organization.
“If Unasur kicks us out, for me it would mean a promotion, even a gold medal. I’m not at call concerned, I’m not seduced by Unasur”, confessed Franco in a radio interview.
He added he was more concerned with what will happen at the Organization of American States, OAS, meeting next week, because after all Unasur is but “a presidents’ club”.
“OAS is a far more prestigious institution, with more institutional democratic gym, and we always make sure that they send observers to our elections”, underlined Franco.
However Franco said that Paraguay can’t be out of Mercosur. “It is part of our reality, our every day business. We are a Mediterranean country; we need to have good relations with our neighbours, particularly when they are very powerful (Brazil and Argentina)”.
“If Brazil is doing fine, Paraguay by extension will also be doing fine. From an economic point of view Brazil for us is vital. Our main trade partner is Brazil followed by China”, he said.
Regarding the controversy whether to remain in Mercosur as full member or associate member, as is the case of Chile, Franco admitted the issue could be considered in a referendum simultaneously with the April 2013 presidential election.
“Can we call a referendum and ask the people at the election in April what they want?” asked Franco. “Can a one year government make such a drastic decision as abandoning Mercosur or do we hold on and create the best possible conditions for the next elected government and let them decide?”
“I’m not going to make any decision that can hurt my country and that might rejoice one of two persons. Any decision will be taken always to the benefit of all the people of my country, which is my duty to them”, concluded Franco.