Edinburgh, 5th July 2012 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – Paraguay’s new government has broken diplomatic relations with Venezuela after accusing it of meddling in Paraguay’s internal affairs. Several Latin American diplomats and media sources have cast doubt upon the allegations.
The Paraguayan foreign ministry announced the withdrawal of its ambassador to Venezuela and declared Venezuela’s envoy to Asuncion a “persona non grata” yesterday due to “serious evidence of intervention...in the internal affairs of the Republic of Paraguay” by Venezuelan officials.
The allegations are based on videos released on Tuesday by Paraguay’s new defence minister Maria Liz Garcia, which purport to show Venezuelan foreign minister Nicolas Maduro and Ecuadorian ambassador Julio Prado inciting a rebellion among high ranking figures in the Paraguayan military.
Garcia accused Maduro of encouraging military figures to remain loyal to Paraguayan president Fernando Lugo on the day of his impeachment trial on 22 June, before Lugo was rapidly dismissed from office by the Paraguayan senate. Many Latin American countries, including Venezuela, have called the move an “institutional coup”.
Maduro was in Paraguay as part of a delegation from the 12-member Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) to try and mediate Paraguay’s political crisis before Lugo’s dismissal.
The Venezuelan government has not yet issued a formal response to the accusation of intervention; however a legislator of the governing United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), Carlos Sierra, described it as “totally false”.
“It’s a totally edited, distorted video,” he said to press yesterday. “Maduro was trying to resolve the [Paraguayan] situation with the UNASUR delegation and what they [the Paraguayan government] want is to manipulate it by saying that our foreign minister is inciting the military”.
He further denominated the new Paraguayan government of Federico Franco as “dictatorial, anti-popular,” and “quite simply against the ALBA (the Bolivarian Alternative for the People’s of Our America)”.
Venezuela president Hugo Chavez termed Lugo’s ouster a “state coup” and on 24 June cut oil supplies and withdrew the Venezuelan ambassador from Paraguay in response.
Paraguay’s next diplomatic move may be to expel Venezuelan military figures accredited by the Paraguayan government, according to yesterday’s official statement.
Paraguay has been temporarily suspended from the UNASUR and the Mercosur trade bloc. The suspension of Paraguay from the latter, whose senate had been blocking Venezuela’s entrance for years, paved the way for Venezuela to become a full Mercosur member last week.
Various diplomatic and media sources in Latin America have cast doubt upon Paraguay’s accusations of Venezuela meddling in its internal affairs.
The Paraguayan daily paper Ultima Hora reported that in the video “Maduro, Prado, other UNASUR foreign ministers, senior figures, and various others are observed, but no meeting between the Venezuelan [Maduro] with military figures is seen nor conversations distinguished in the small parts with audio”.
Meanwhile ousted president Lugo claimed yesterday that the video was a “crude framing” to “compromise” foreign figures in “manoeuvres that never happened” in order to “divert attention” from the details of his removal. Lugo is seeking the nullification of his dismissal in Paraguay’s Supreme Court.
Colombian foreign minister Maria Angela Holgiun backed her Venezuelan counterpart Maduro, stating on Caracol radio that “in the place where we [the UNASUR delegation] always met there were always people from the military forces. If you ask me if I saw Maduro meet with someone, then no. He was where we all were”.
Ecuadorian foreign minister Ricardo Patiño also rejected the video evidence. He declared that any diplomatic moves made by Paraguay as a response would be based on “absolutely false information” as “we never attended a meeting with military figures”.
Venezuelan Opposition Support Franco
Venezuela’s conservative opposition coalition, the MUD has sided with Paraguay’s new Franco government in the dispute.
According to MUD foreign affairs spokesperson Ramon Jose Medina, Paraguay’s decision “was a natural and logical consequence of what was going to happen given the excesses of foreign minister Maduro”.
Medina’s statement accepted the Franco government’s accusations, declaring that Maduro “exceeded his powers in trying to instigate a military movement, meeting with the Paraguayan armed forces”.
For the MUD, the dispute between Venezuela and the new Paraguayan government over Lugo’s ouster represents a deterioration in relations with “friendly countries” and problems with the “Latin American community”.
MUD candidate Henrique Capriles Radonski is currently fighting a presidential race against PSUV incumbent President Hugo Chavez.