Mendoza (Argentina): The Mercosur regional trading bloc granted full membership to Venezuela and barred Paraguay from participating until new elections following the ouster of its president.

Argentina's President Cristina Kirchner made the announcements on Friday at the end of the bloc's summit in the city of Mendoza.

Venezuela will assume full Mercosur membership on July 31 at a ceremony in Rio de Janeiro, she said, flanked by her counterparts from the bloc, Presidents Jose Mujica of Uruguay and Dilma Rousseff of Brazil.

Venezuela's membership has until now been blocked by Paraguayan lawmakers.

"This is a historic day, we must celebrate," Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez said in comments to the Telesur television network.

The current members of Mercosur are Argentina, Brazil, suspended Paraguay and Uruguay.

Chilean President Sebastian Pinera and Bolivian President Evo Morales also attended the talks, along with their Peruvian counterpart Ollanta Humala and Ecuadoran leader Rafael Correa.

The bloc decided to "temporarily suspend Paraguay until a democratic process allows for popular sovereignty to be restored," in the wake of the impeachment and dismissal of former president Fernando Lugo, Kirchner said.

Elections are expected in April 2013. Lugo's abrupt ouster last week on charges of malfeasance linked to a deadly land dispute has been widely criticized by other Latin American leaders, who say the president did not have time to mount a proper defense.

Lugo's successor Federico Franco was barred from participating in the summit in Mendoza, a city in western Argentina. The country was not represented at the talks.

Lugo told the Folha de Sao Paulo newspaper of Brazil that he does not rule out running for president next year, even though Paraguay's constitution bars two-term presidents.


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