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July 11, 2013

Snowden, Paraguay on Mercosur Agenda

by Leonardo Luzzi

Foreign ministers from the Latin American group Mercosur are meeting Thursday in Uruguay to discuss, among other issues, Edward Snowden’s asylum bid and Paraguay’s suspension from the block last year.

Venezuela will be appointed Mercosur president for the first time, relieving current president Uruguay. This semester presidency belonged to Paraguay but since the country was suspended last year, Venezuela has assumed the charge.

Nicolas Maduro’s country entered the group without Paraguay’s approval after it was suspended from Mercosur. It is supposed to be eligible to rejoin, but the other members have dismissed its request of becoming president if it’s readmitted.

Paraguay was suspended last year after lawmakers in Ascension voted to impeach former president Frenando Lugo.

Thurday's meeting of officials from Argentina, Brazil, Venezuela and Uruguay will be followed by the Mercosur presidential summit on Friday.  Participants are expected to discuss Edward Snowden’s asylum request to Venezuela, and how accepting it could influence already damaged diplomatic relations between Venezuela and the United States.

Mercosur nations have also criticized the behavior of Portugal, Spain, Italy and France after they rejected Bolivian president Evo Morales’ plane to overfly their territories under the suspicion NSA fugitive was in the aircraft.

Uruguayan Vice-Chancellor Luis Porto said what happened with Morales was very serious. 

“We accept that there could have been some mistakes, it could have been some mistakes, but it is necessary to admit those mistakes and they should be explained with the acceptance of responsibility to the international community”, he said.

A press conference is scheduled after leaders meeting on Friday.

This report originally appeared on VOA's Spanish language service.