Paraguay president says "accepts the fight" after calls for impeachment

By Daniela Desantis

ASUNCION, July 31 (Reuters) - Paraguayan President Mario Abdo said on Wednesday he "accepts the fight" after some lawmakers announced they will push to impeach him following the scandal over the signing of an energy policy with Brazil, which they said went against the country's sovereignty.

"I accept the fight! For a Paraguay without mafias!" Abdo tweeted after some opposition parties and dissident lawmakers said they will seek to impeach him along with Vice President Hugo Velazquez.

The call for impeachment is the latest development in a scandal over the signing of an energy deal with Brazil, a blow to Abdo who has forged close ties with Brazil, South America's No. 1 economy.

An impeachment would require 53 votes in the Chamber of Deputies and require Senate backing.

"We are going to prepare the corresponding documentation for the prosecution of poor performance. We have to do new elections," said Efrain Alegre, leader of Paraguay's Liberal Party, the main opposition group.

The scandal was sparked by an energy deal - made public last week - and was related to the giant Itaipu hydroelectric plant that straddles the two countries, which officials and lawmakers said would be hugely harmful for Paraguay and cost the state around $200 million. Paraguay's foreign minister and three other officials resigned on Monday in the wake of the backlash.

"Everyone's position was unanimous. We are talking about treason to the homeland. We are facing a very serious scenario," Senator Sergio Godoy of Honor Colorado, a dissident faction within the government, said on a local television channel.

The lawmakers supporting the impeachments also called for protests to begin on Friday.

The scandal is the first major crisis to hit Abdo, who belongs to the right-wing Colorado Party. Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro offered support for Abdo on Wednesday and said Brazil was willing to do justice on the issue of Itaipu.

Abdo's government, which maintains a close relationship with Bolsonaro, said the decision was finally taken via diplomatic channels after the failure of negotiations between state power technicians.

(Reporting by Cassandra Garrison Editing by Shri Navaratnam)

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