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Ousted Paraguayan leader won’t cede power, sets up alternate government
ASUNCION, PARAGUAY — Ousted Paraguayan President Fernando Lugo fought back Sunday against the politicians who engineered his dismissal, setting up an alternative government and pledging to upstage Paraguay's new leaders at an upcoming regional summit.
Mr. Lugo's new stance marked a dramatic about-face from just two days earlier when it seemed he would go meekly into retirement after the country's Congress overwhelmingly voted to impeach him.
Since then, Mr. Lugo has received a flood of support from South American nations, including the Mercosur trade bloc, which suspended Paraguay from taking part in a summit set to start Monday in Mendoza, Argentina.
Mercosur nations expressed "their most energetic condemnation of the rupture of democratic order" in Paraguay, read a joint statement issued by the Argentine Foreign Ministry.
Meanwhile, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said his government will cut off fuel sales to the poor South American country. Venezuela had become a key supplier to Paraguay as Mr. Chavez built close ties with Mr. Lugo, a moderate leftist.
The developments set back efforts by newly sworn-in President Federico Franco, who over the weekend mounted efforts to justify Mr. Lugo's removal and fend off criticism from regional leaders calling the action an institutional coup.
Earlier Sunday, Mr. Franco said newly appointed Foreign Minister Jose Felix Fernandez would represent Paraguay at the Mendoza summit.
"He will take charge of seeking to solve the discrepancies with countries that are our neighbors and friends," Mr. Franco said after attending Sunday Mass.
There was no immediate comment from his government after Paraguay's suspension.
Mr. Lugo also said he will attend the summit and even hand over the rotating presidency of another regional bloc, Unasur, to Peru next week, months before it is due to switch in November.
"I will not collaborate with Franco's government because it is bogus. It has no legitimacy," Mr. Lugo said. Earlier he denounced his ouster as a "parliamentary coup."
His former Cabinet ministers announced that they were establishing a parallel government to continue Mr. Lugo's policies and would meet on matters of state Monday.
"President Lugo will be with his ministers to take decisions and then inform what those determinations were," said Augusto Dos Santos, Mr. Lugo's minister of social communication.
Last week Mr. Lugo said he would respect the outcome of his impeachment proceedings. After his rapid trial and conviction in the Senate on Friday, he disappeared from sight, and an aide said he was focused on moving his things out of the presidential palace.
But he came out swinging shortly after midnight Sunday, telling protesters his truncated presidency was targeted because he tried to help the South American nation's poor majority. Asked whether he had any hope of retaking office, Mr. Lugo exhorted his followers to remain peaceful but suggested that national and international clamor could reverse his impeachment.
"In politics, anything is possible," he said.
He also said he agreed to respect the outcome of a process he considered illegitimate at the behest of Roman Catholic bishops in order to avoid bloodshed. A second "open-microphone" protest took place Sunday and was still going well past nightfall, with a larger crowd of around 1,000.
By Tom Fitton
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