Paraguay recalls ambassador in diplomatic dispute with Venezuela

Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro attends a meeting with representatives of international and national mining companies, at the headquarters of the Venezuelan Central Bank in Caracas, Venezuela August 5, 2016. REUTERS/Marco Bello

ASUNCION (Reuters) - Paraguay on Friday recalled its ambassador to Caracas after Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro made disparaging remarks about Paraguay amidst a leadership dispute in South America’s Mercosur trade bloc.

Earlier this week, socialist Maduro accused Paraguay of being part of “an extreme right wing alliance” aimed at blocking Venezuela from assuming its role as head of Mercosur as scheduled during the second half of the year.

A statement by Paraguay said its decision to call Ambassador Enrique Jara back to Asuncion for talks was “based on the statements made by Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro about the government of Paraguay.”

Maduro had accused Paraguay, Argentina and Brazil of entering “a triple alliance” against his government, a loaded term referring to the nineteenth century war in which Paraguay faced off against Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay, the bloodiest military conflict in Latin American history.

On state-run Venezuelan television this week, Maduro said, “now we are being pursued by the triple alliance or Latin American torturers. We are being pursued by the corrupt, drug-smuggling Paraguayan oligarchy.”

Venezuela is under increasing international pressure to address an economic and political crisis in which Venezuelans are short of food and Maduro is accused of unfairly jailing opposition leaders.

Maduro dismisses such accusations as a U.S.-backed campaign against him and says the economic crisis is the result of an “economic war” led by Washington.

Reporting by Mariel Cristaldo; writing by Hugh Bronstein; editing by Grant McCool