Venezuela’s expulsion of Paraguayan diplomats from Caracas, as a direct consequence of the ongoing conflict inside Mercosur has left Brazil with the challenge of recomposing relations inside the group ahead of Mercosur next summit in December which will be hosted by the administration of President Dilma Rousseff.
According to reliable diplomatic sources Brazilian diplomacy was working to have the temporary suspension of Paraguay, and the ongoing controversy, neatly planned for a non traumatic full return and reconciliation at December’s summit.
In June during the last summit hosted by Argentina, Mercosur members decided to suspend Paraguay following the removal of Fernando Lugo from the Executive as a consequence of political impeachment in the Paraguayan Senate. The defence process of Lugo during impeachment was questioned by the neighbouring countries but also exposed the absence of political support of the removed president who was replaced by Federico Franco.
The suspension was until April 2013 when Paraguay is scheduled to hold presidential elections, which according to Mercosur would mark the return to democratic order.
All Mercosur and Unasur members withdrew their ambassadors from Asuncion and expected the same attitude from Paraguay. However the situation with Venezuela was more complicated since the Franco administration openly accused Venezuelan Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro of meeting with the Paraguayan Joint Chiefs of Staff to try and convince them to support Lugo with a “good intended coup”. This forced the withdrawal of all Venezuelan diplomatic staff.
After the suspension decision, Unasur (South American nations) followed suit, and Mercosur also took advantage of the absence to admit Venezuela as full member, a situation which had been paralyzed for years at the Paraguayan Senate.
Since then events in Paraguay confirmed the weak support for Lugo, whose electoral coalition has atomized, and the full rule of democratic institutions, human and civil rights under the administration of President Franco.
Based on these facts collected from an in situ mission sent by the Organization of American States, the rest of the Americas did not support any sanctions on Paraguay and even questioned if the ‘democratic order’ as alleged, had been broken. Lugo although later complained he had been forced out, on his removal admitted all had been done “according to the book (Constitution)”.
But last week the Paraguayan Senate in an almost unanimous vote rejected the Ushuaia Democratic protocol as contrary to sovereignty and non intervention principles. The protocol was used by Mercosur and Unasur to justify the suspension of Paraguay from both organizations given the alleged break down of democratic order.
The Paraguayan Senate went further and for the first time formally voted against the incorporation of Venezuela as full member of Mercosur, a step they had not yet taken.
Furthermore two Unasur members, allegedly Chile and Colombia, have been moving looking for ways to lift the suspension and are ready to send their ambassadors back to Asuncion.
This scenario would have helped Brazil, as host of the December summit, to move towards a similar decision with Mercosur and some understanding reached on the Venezuelan dispute.
Ordering Paraguayan diplomats to leave Caracas doesn’t seem to help, but Venezuela’s Foreign Ministry informed their peers that they had “waited patiently” three months for the administration of President Franco to withdraw their representation, (as Venezuela did in early July), which did not happen and thus the decision to make the situation public.
However Paraguayan political sources argue the government of President Hugo Chavez is really reacting against current low key negotiations to lift sanctions on Paraguay, both in Mercosur and Unasur and to torpedo the expected return of at least two ambassadors to Asuncion.