Brazil reach Copa semis with shootout win over Paraguay

Brazil reached the last four of the Copa America on Thursday with a 4-3 penalty shootout win over Paraguay after their compelling quarter-final in Porto Alegre ended scoreless.

Gabriel got the winning kick for Brazil after Gustavo Gomez and Derlis Gonzalez missed for the visitors. Roberto Firmino pulled his spot kick wide for the hosts.

Brazil, who have yet to concede a goal in their first four games, will next face the winner of Friday’s quarter-final between Argentina and Venezuela in Belo Horizonte next Tuesday.

Gabriel Jesus had missed a penalty against Peru in their last group game and said he went back to his tried and tested technique on Thursday.

"In the last game I didn’t look at the keeper and I hit it hard straight away and the goalie made a good save," he added.

"Today I did it my usual way, I looked calmly at the keeper and I could see him moving to the left and I side-footed it the other way."

After a foul strewn and unexciting first half, Brazil took control when Fabian Balbuena was sent off in the 58th minute for fouling Firmino as he bore down on goal.

The referee gave a penalty but changed it to a free kick on the edge of the area after consulting the video assistant referee (VAR).

The sending off then saw the home side lay siege to the Paraguayan goal but without joy, Everton seeing a shot deflected over the bar, Gabriel Jesus pulling a gilt-edged chance wide, and Willian hitting the post in the last minute.

"We created lots and lots of chances, the ball hit the woodwork, the goalkeeper worked miracles, but the fans helped us and we never gave up," said midfielder Arthur.

"We know what football is like, it’s about small details, and we couldn’t win but we felt the good energies and we managed to get through on penalties."

Goalkeeper Alisson, who like Arthur started his career in Porto Alegre, saluted his team mates.

"This is a team that deserved the win today," Alisson said.

"It was a draw but against a team that didn’t want to play unless it was on the counter attack. We’ve gone up one step, two more to go to our objective, to be Copa America champions."

In the other two quarter-finals, Colombia play Chile and Uruguay take on Peru.

  • Published in Sports

Lionel Messi saves Argentina from Copa America elimination

Lionel Messi saved Argentina from elimination at the 2019 Copa America with a penalty kick score in the 57th minute of a draw with Paraguay.

Argentina still sits at the bottom of Group B, despite the 1-1 draw Wednesday in Belo Horizonte, Brazil.

Paraguay drew first blood in the 37th minute after attacking midfielder Miguel Almiron dribbled through the box and fired a pass to Richard Sanchez. The Paraguay midfielder burried a shot into the left side of the net, beating Argentina keeper Franco Armani.

Paraguay held the 1-0 lead through the halftime whistle. A handball from Paraguay's Ivan Piris led to Messi's second half equalizer. Piris' infraction in the box was spotted by VAR. The right back got his hand on a shot by Argentina's Lautaro Martinez.

Messi lined up for the attempt and struck the ball with his left boot, beating Paraguay keeper Gatito Fernandez into the right corner of the net.

"It's a little frustrating not being able to get the win we need to take the next step," Messi told reporters. "We knew this would be difficult, we're still looking for the best group, for the best performance, to keep growing."

Argentina can advance into the final eight with a win in its final Group B match. Messi's squad battles Qatar at 3 p.m. Sunday in Porto Alegre, Brazil.

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Paraguay breaks diplomatic ties with Venezuela, neighbors join in condemning Maduro

Paraguayan president Mario Abdo Benítez will close his country’s embassy in Caracas and withdraw diplomats, following Maduro’s inauguration for another term in power. Other South American countries joined in condemning Maduro.

“The government of the Republic of Paraguay, [...] has decided to sever diplomatic relations with ... Venezuela, to close our embassy there and to immediately recall Paraguayan diplomatic personnel,”  he said.

Benítez added that his decision will not affect the country’s “international commitments” to the troubled state and expressed solidarity with the Venezuelan people. 

Shortly after Benítez' announcement, Peru followed suit, recalling its last diplomat from Caracas in protest at Maduro's illegitimate” election. Peru's government also announced it will bar Maduro and 100 other Venezuelan officials from entering the country.

Argentina's President Mauricio Macri also denounced Maduro, writing on Twitter that Venezuela is a dictatorship,” whose leader tries to mock democracy.”

EL VICTIMARIO QUE SE VICTIMIZA. Nicolás Maduro hoy intenta burlarse de la democracia. Los venezolanos lo saben, el mundo lo sabe. Venezuela vive bajo una dictadura.

All in all, 13 of the 14 foreign ministers of the Lima Group - formed in 2017 to oppose Maduro's government - have rejected Maduro’s return to power, claiming the country’s May 20 electoral process lacked legitimacy.

On Wednesday, Maduro responded by giving the Lima group 48 hours to rectify their position, threatening to take “corresponding diplomatic measures.”

Since taking power in 1999, the governments of Hugo Chavez and successor Nicolas Maduro have implemented socialist economic policies that saw industry nationalised, price controls implemented, and wealth redistributed. These policies are widely considered to have failed miserably.

In an economic crisis exacerbated by a worldwide drop in oil prices since 2014 and punitive US sanctions, living conditions in Venezuela have deteriorated to the point where the average Venezuelan has lost 24 pounds in body weight since 2015, food, medicine, and clean water are in short supply, and some three million refugees have fled the country.

Also on 9 Venezuelan military officers sentenced for ‘Operation Jericho’ coup plot to overthrow Maduro...

The International Monetary Fund has predicted that Venezuela's inflation rate will hit ten million percent in 2019, one of the worst examples of hyperinflation in modern history.

While most of Maduro's neighbors held off attending his inauguration on Thursday, the Venezuelan leader could still count on a few allies to show up. The presidents of Cuba, Nicaragua, El Salvador and Bolivia were all in attendance.

The US, unsurprisingly, denounced Maduro's election and inauguration. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called Maduro's election last year an illegitimate usurpation of power,” and vowed to continue to use the full weight of US economic and diplomatic power” to push for regime change in the Latin American nation.

The US will not recognize the Maduro dictatorship’s illegitimate inauguration. We will continue to increase pressure on the corrupt regime, support the democratic National Assembly, and call for democracy and freedom in Venezuela.

Maduro continues to blame the US for much of his country's ills, and last month accused leaders in Washington of plotting his assassination. In his inauguration speech, Maduro said Venezuela will continue to refuse to bow to the imperial and hegemonic orders” of the United States.


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Paraguay: Prison Requested For Former President Fernando Lugo

A bishop associated with liberation theology, Fernando Lugo was impeached in 2012 in what many at the time called a 'constitutional coup.'

Lawyers for former Paraguayan President Nicanor Duarte Frutos and current President Horacio Cartes have presented a legal case against Senator and former President Fernando Lugo, requesting a prison sentence for 'unconstitutional behavior.'

RELATED: Paraguay: Conservative Benitez is New President

Lawyer Rogelio Benitez said: "Ten years await Lugo for having attempted to act against the constitutional organs of the Republic. Lugo is a citizen who believes himself to have superpowers, beyond the constitution."

Duarte Frutos and Cartes, two leading figures of the ruling conservative Colorado Party, are accusing the leader of the progressive Guasu Front of ignoring the votes of Colorado Party candidates.

The legal complaint claims that Lugo, as president of Congress, "assumed functions that don't correspond to him, bypassing constitutional dispositions, practically bypassing the Supreme Court and Electoral justice and all overseeing laws."

The Guasu Front responded to the accusations by saying the "Colorado Party seeks to violate the institution's integrity" and vowing that it "will not cease against the pressures of political groups... who use and abuse state structures with impunity."

The Guasu Front reiterated its "full support to comrade Senator Fernando Lugo that has kept firm in his position of not transgressing in any way in his position with regards to the dictates of the National Constitution."

The Guasu Front also reiterated its commitment to "clean the judicial structure of the country."

Fernando Lugo was a Catholic Bishop associated with liberation theology who assumed presidency of the Guasu Front in 2008, ousting the ruling Colorado Party.

In 2012, he was impeached in what many called a 'constitutional coup.' The coup was condemned by progressive leaders, including Argentina's Cristina Fernandez, Ecuador's Rafael Correa and Brazil's Dilma Rousseff.

Lugo was later elected to the Senate in 2013.

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MERCOSUR will Discuss Cultural Agenda in Paraguay

Asuncion, Jun 6 (Prensa Latina) Ministers and authorities of Culture of the countries of the Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR) will meet from today in this capital to discuss and exchange ideas and projects in favor of cultural development in the region.

The organizers have scheduled for today and tomorrow the 46th Meeting of the Regional Coordinating Committee (RCC), while the main conclave of the meeting, the 43rd Meeting of Ministers and Authorities of Culture, will take place on Friday 8.

This MERCOSUR entity promotes the cultural rights of citizens, generating policies that promote social inclusion through actions which allow cultural enrichment.

It also promotes cooperation at the regional level, carrying out joint projects and programs in the different sectors, promoting the spread of knowledge of the values and traditions of the States Parties, as well as the dissemination of the artistic and cultural expressions of the bloc.

Paraguay received the Pro Tempore Presidency (PPT) of Mercosur Cultural during the 42nd Meeting of Ministers of Culture of the regional bloc, held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, at the end of 2017.

  • Published in Culture

Paraguay's Ousted Progressive President Lugo to Run Again

Much like what was recently done in Brazil, the political elite in Paraguay rushed to convene a political trial against Lugo's presidency.

Former president and current Senator Fernando Lugo said Monday that only a formal ruling could prevent him from running in the upcoming presidential elections in Paraguay, as many attempt to deter the electoral ambitions of the only progressive president the country has had.

RELATED: 5 Points About the 2012 Parliamentary Putsch Against Paraguay's Lugo

“I will just wait—and not listen to 'opinologists,' jurists, etc.—for the decision of the Supreme Court if anyone wishes to impede my candidacy,” said Lugo, who was ousted as president by a parliamentary coup in 2012.

Since he announced his candidacy in June, right-wing sectors have argued that it would be unconstitutional for an ousted president to run again for the same office.

However, the senator affirmed the constitution “did not mention whether a former president could be vetoed or prohibited (to run in the election); I am currently senator, I was elected, because it was allowed. I am not senator for life and I believe that the Constitution guarantees equal opportunities to all Paraguayan citizens.”

The constitution's article 229 only forbids the candidacy for the current president and vice-president, he noted.

Lugo's election in 2008 broke the six-decade rule of the right-wing Colorado Party and was seen as part of the progressive wave of leaders elected throughout Latin America. An adherent of liberation theology, the former catholic bishop campaigned for reforms in favor of the long-neglected poor in the country, which propelled him to the presidency.

ANALYSIS: Paraguayan Guerrilla and Land Conflict: The Next Colombia?

Lugo faced opposition from the powerful political establishment in Paraguay, who impeded his efforts at nearly every turn and conspired to secure his ouster from the beginning of his presidency.

His opponents succeeded when they mounted a political show trial in the country's congress, using the Curuguaty massacre as a pretext.

Much like what was recently done in Brazil against President Dilma Rousseff, the political elite rushed to convene a political trial against the president. On June 21, 2012, the two establishment political parties, the Colorado Party of the Stroessner dictatorship and the right-wing Liberal Party launched impeachment proceedings against Lugo.

Lugo opted not to fight his ouster and was quickly replaced by his vice president, Federico Franco, a member of the Colorado Party who had earlier broken with the president.

Franco quickly restored things to the establishment status quo, reversing many of Lugo's progressive policies. Horacio Cartes, also of the Colorado Party, was subsequently elected president in elections held in April 2013, but has been facing growing opposition, with social protests regularly demanding his resignation.

  • Published in World

120 Inmates, Gangsters and Guerrillas Take Over Paraguay Prison

The incident follows the announcement that Paraguay’s biggest prison—and one of the most overcrowded in Latin America—will soon be closed.

A group of at least 120 inmates in the Tacumbú prison in the Paraguayan capital of Asuncion, barricaded themselves after taking two prison guards as hostages, local media reported.

RELATED: Paraguay Campesinos Sentenced for 2012 Coup-Sparking Massacre

The mutiny began Wednesday morning during a routine check, with prisoners getting upset and a riot breaking out. Two guards were taken hostage in the facility’s hall—where the most dangerous prisoners are kept—but were released 15 minutes later with injuries in the head and neck, according to authorities.

The prisoners involved in the incident reportedly belong to the Paraguayan People's Army, or EPP, an offshoot called the Armed Peasant Association, ACA, as well as Brazil's First Capital Command, PCC.

The incident follows an announcement that the prison will soon be closed and its inmates transferred to other penal facilities, with most of the inmates scheduled to be sent to the Emboscada jail, 40 miles north of Asuncion. The prison's expansion was recently completed.

Tacumbu prison is Paraguay’s biggest jail and one of the most overcrowded in Latin America, with a population of more than 3,000 inmates. The facility has been frequently criticized for prisoner abuse and poor human conditions.

Riot police and the special forces entered the prison and are talking with inmates to normalize the situation without having to use force.

  • Published in World

Paraguayan Peasants Get Stiff Sentences for Deadly Clash

ASUNCION – The 11 peasants charged in connection with an armed clash in 2012 that resulted in 17 deaths and led to the ouster of Paraguay’s then-president were sentenced on Monday to prison terms ranging from four to 30 years.

The reading of the verdict was interrupted by protests from defense attorneys and supporters of the defendants inside the Palace of Justice in Asuncion.

Controversy surrounded the year-long trial, which focused solely on the deaths of six police officers in what became known as the Curuguaty massacre.

No one has been charged with the killings of the 11 peasants who died during the events of June 15, 2012, on the Morumbi property, a spread of 2,000 hectares (4,938 acres) in the eastern municipality of Curuguaty.

Authorities had sent more than 300 police officers backed by helicopters to clear peasants off the estate, pursuant to a court order obtained by Morumbi’s owner, prominent politician and businessman Blas N. Riquelme.

Ruben Villalba, found guilty of killing the commander of the police contingent, Erven Lovera, was sentenced to 30 years behind bars.

Defendant Luis Olmedo got 20 years as Villalba’s accomplice, while two other men were each sentenced to 18 years in connection with Lovera’s death.

Opponents of President Fernando Lugo seized upon the violence at Curuguaty as a pretext to remove the head of state.

On June 22, 2012, the opposition-dominated lower house voted overwhelmingly to impeach Lugo, and the Senate adopted a schedule that called for the president’s trial to begin at 12:00 p.m. the following day and a verdict to be rendered before nightfall.

Only four of the 43 senators present at the session voted against finding Lugo guilty of misfeasance.

Lugo, a former Catholic bishop, was elected in 2008 at the head of a broad-based coalition in favor of reform in the poor, landlocked South American nation.

Paraguay’s partners in the Mercosur trade bloc characterized Lugo’s removal as a coup and suspended Asuncion from the organization for several years.

  • Published in World
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