On January 25th, President Federico Franco of Paraguay expressed the position of his government on regional affairs to mark the January 26-27 weekend Summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States with European Union countries, in Santiago, Chile. Franco called upon the heads of states to address the situation of Paraguay and resolve the sanctions that were applied against his country by members nations of MERCOSUR and UNASUR. The sanctions prevented Paraguay from officially attending the summit. MERCOSUR is a regional trade bloc that brought together Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay. Venezuela was admitted to the bloc in 2012 after Paraguay had been shunned.
In a brief phone interview with Spero News on January 25, President Franco stated that he "call[ed] upon the heads of state, who will attend this weekend’s Summit in Chile, to discuss, rekindle and review the political actions taken by some MERCOSUR and UNASUR member countries against the Paraguayan Governments and its people.” Regarding his conversations with heads of state, Franco confirmed that Paraguay “[had] not received an official invitation to participate in the first Summit of CELAC-EU" .
Franco pointed out the good and fraternal relations that Paraguay has with Chile and Colombia, noting that the ambassadors of the respective countries have returned to the capital city, Asuncion. There ambassadors, along with those from Argentina, Brazil, Venezuela and others were recalled by their governments following the impeachment of former President Fernando Lugo in late June, 2012. Following the impeachment of Lugo, the Paraguayan legislature named the erstwhile Vice-President Franco to fill the position until national elections take place in April 2013. The Organization of American States, following an investigation, ruled that the impeachment was done in accordance with Paraguay’s constitution and relevant laws.
Regarding the absence of Paraguay at the weekend summit that is of great importance for Latin America and the European Union, Paraguayan Foreign Minister Jose Fernandez Estigarribia issued a statement that, "the position of Chilean government is well received and Asuncion understands perfectly the position of the government of Chile which has been pressured by other UNASUR member countries, including Brazil and Argentina, to defer from inviting Paraguayan authorities to this bi-continental forum.”
Brazil, Venezuela and other Latin American Countries, had threatened to not participate in this first CELAC- EU Summit if Paraguayan authorities were invited to attend.
According to Chilean President Sebastian Piñera “the Summit will bring together over forty-five heads of State. Some of the most important world leaders will be in Chile, including the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, and the President of the government of Spain, Mariano Rajoy.”
Piñera’s vision coincides with that of EC President Jose Manuel Barroso, which is “to build a horizontal relationship, in which we can join forces to build a strategic alliance for sustainable development. We have only one objective and that is to improve the quality of life for everyone.”
Aside from Chile’s unwillingness to invite Paraguay to Santiago for CELAC – EU Summit, Chile has been supportive of Paraguay’s government of seven months in formal meetings of Organization of American States where the legitimacy of Franco’s government was discussed.
Paraguayan Foreign Minister Fernandez Estigarribia, noted that “The government of Chile has returned its ambassador to Asuncion and thanks to the efforts of Franco’s government, Chile has opened its beef and meat market to Paraguayan exports, which allows thousands of Paraguayans, including beef producers and exporting firms, to enjoy a better economic position in the Chilean beef market.”
Bilateral trade with Chile is important to Paraguay, and based on this strategy, Paraguayan government has chosen not to participate in CELAC - EU Summit and continue to foster relations with many countries in order to increase the awareness of the long time term isolation of the country by sister republics such as Brazil, Argentina and Ecuador ever since Franco became Paraguay’s president.
Along the same lines, Uruguay – which is an avid supporter of Paraguay’s isolation while holding the pro tempore chairmanship of MERCOSUR – is found to be in a difficult position and has repeatedly refrained from responding to questions raised by the European Union regarding the sanctions against Franco’s government.
Spero contributor Peter M. Tase analyzes international trade and diplomacy.