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Paraguay's ousted president fights back

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.

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, 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 Chavez built close ties with Lugo, a moderate leftist.

The developments set back efforts by newly sworn-in President Federico Franco, who over the weekend mounted efforts to justify Lugo's removal and fend off criticism from regional leaders calling the action an institutional coup.

Earlier Sunday, Franco said newly appointed Foreign Minister Jose Felix Fernandez would represent Paraguay at the Mendoza summit, with heads of state gathering there on Thursday.

“He will take charge of seeking to solve the discrepancies with countries that are our neighbors and friends,” Franco said after attending Sunday Mass. There was no immediate comment from his government after Paraguay's suspension.

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,” 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 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, Lugo's minister of social communication.

Paraguay's new president was barred Sunday from participating in a summit of South American leaders next week.

Argentina's foreign ministry said the move was adopted by the other members and associate states of Mercosur, a South American trading bloc that is scheduled to meet Thursday and Friday in the Argentine city of Mendoza.

The statement expressed the group's “most energetic condemnation of the rupture of the democratic order that occurred in the Republic of Paraguay, for not having respected due process.”

Lugo told reporters earlier Sunday that he planned to go to the summit, calling his sudden impeachment and ouster by a Senate vote on Friday a “parliamentary coup d'etat.”

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