Today’s Mercosur presidential meeting, in Mendoza, Argentina, is getting rather more international attention than it likely anticipated. Previously expected to be little more than tussling over tariffs and a perfunctory discussion of fiscal woes in Europe, the focus now will be Fernando Lugo’s sudden removal from the Paraguayan presidency last Friday.
Although Paraguay claimed to adhere to due legislative process, Lugo’s vice president Federico Franco was sworn in mere hours later, causing international observers to ask if the swift removal had, in fact, been a bloodless coup. In Brazil, use of the neologism “golpeachment”—a combination of the Portuguese words for impeachment and coup—quickly began to spread through social networking sites.
Condemnation came swiftly from Paraguay’s neighbors, leery of regional democratic instability following a series of bloody coups in the 1970s and 1980s. The Mercosur alliance—founding members being Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay—suspended Paraguay from this week’s meetings.
Here in Brazil, the Foreign Ministry refused to confirm circulating reports that President Dilma Rousseff had drawn up “a menu of sanctions” against Franco’s government, and as the week wore on it looked increasingly likely that Brazil’s response would remain diplomatic. As Colin Snider, a professor of Latin American history, pointed out in an interview, Brazil’s ambassador to Paraguay was recalled “for consultations,” but not withdrawn permanently, “an important marker on the more moderate, ‘wait-and-see’ approach from Brazil.”
Mercosur member nations officially decided today not to impose economic sanctions on Paraguay; Argentine President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner (CFK) said that Mercosur doesn’t believe in sanctions because “they never hurt governments; they always hurt the people.” Brazilian Foreign Minister Antonio Patriota gave hints yesterday that he would advise against economic sanctions.