Mercosur, a four-nation regional trade bloc in South America, could suspend Paraguay's membership following the sudden removal of President Fernando Lugo last week, according to Brazil's foreign ministry.

We deeply regret this situation but we find that democracy is no longer in full force in Paraguay, Brazil's Minister of External Relations, Antonio Patriota, stated on Thursday, adding that Paraguay could be permanently removed from the bloc. The remaining Mercosur nations -- Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay -- have decided not to sanction Paraguay over concern that the economic measures would have an unfair negative impact on blameless citizens.

Lugo was impeached during a four-hour session of congress last Friday over his response to clashes between farmers and police that left at least 17 people dead. Vice-president Federico Franco has been named interim president and will serve until elections in April.