Last Updated: 2013-07-25
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WASHINGTON, July 24 (NNN-MERCOPRESS) --Paraguay is ready to return to regional trade bloc Mercosur as long as there is respect the country’s dignity, said its ambassador in Washington, Fernando Pfannl Caballero.

But at the same time, it will look for other trade and cooperation opportunities with Mexico, United States and the Pacific Alliance, said the Paraguayan ambassador.

“The fact that Paraguay returns to Mercosur from which is has been suspended for over a year, should not impede the country to reach trade agreements with Mexico, deepen relations with the US and even become a full member of the Pacific Alliance," said Pfannl.

“We are currently observers at the Pacific Alliance and we are trying to reach full membership. We could return to Mercosur having bilateral agreements with other countries such as Mexico or the US," he said at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, CSIS in Washington.

Pfannl said he was convinced that Paraguay would not abandon Mercosur but admitted that ‘it’s going to be complicated’ to return because since the suspension imposed last year, the country feels its dignity ‘abused’ and wants everything done in “the legal framework of the group."

Paraguay was suspended on July 29, 2012 because of the removal of then president Fernando Lugo, following political impeachment by the Senate which overwhelmingly voted to have him out.

However, Mercosur members Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay described the situation as a ‘congressional coup’ and at the same time approved the incorporation of Venezuela as full members, which the Paraguayan Senate had been blocking for years.

“The whole legality of the system has been broken and we can’t see how they are going to re-establish it,” said Pfannl who also criticised the July 12 Mercosur summit in Montevideo which approved lifting the suspension on Paraguay but at the same time handed the six-month presidency to Venezuela.

According to Mercosur charter, any new incorporation must be agreed by all members with all attending when the decision is taken. Paraguay alleges this did not happen with Venezuela. Furthermore the Paraguayan Senate voted against such a move.

Before the summit, Paraguayan president elect Horacio Cartes (who takes office Aug 15) had conditioned the return of Paraguay to the group to making the country president of Mercosur for the next six months and not Venezuela.

“We are going to insist with great interest in the bilateral relations; we need to have good relations with all countries. We are only asking for the rule of law, for justice. What belongs to Paraguay, to Paraguay, what belongs to Venezuela, to Venezuela," said Cartes at the time.

The ambassador believes that on Aug 15, it is hard to see Paraguay returning to Mercosur as full active member or in the immediate future, unless they find “a legal way to do so”, in a way that does “not violate any current legislation or the dignity of Paraguay”.

Likewise, Pfnnal admitted that currently with the economy of the country booming, and the fastest growing in the region, Paraguay ideologically does not feel very close to the other members, Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay and Venezuela.

Landlocked Paraguay is also extremely sensitive about relations with its neighbours because of a long history of battling and abuse from Argentina and Brazil.