A Not So Soft Coup in MERCOSUR: Suicide for Integration

Latin American integration analyst Rubén Armendáriz explores the regional implications of recent attempts to suspend Venezuela from MERCOSUR. 


Venezuela denounced the “fraudulent” decision of its partners to suspend the country as a MERCOSUR member state as a “coup d’état” and for depriving Caracas of its pro tempore presidency. “This is an aggression toward Venezuela of very serious dimensions,” said Venezuelan Minister of Foreign Relations Delcy Rodríguez.

At the time, Paraguay, Brazil and Argentina demanded “greater institutional conditions in Venezuela,” an interventionist argument with no further support, tellingly so as Uruguayan President Tabaré Vázquez said: “In Venezuela, the division of powers operates, regardless of whether you agree with ‘how are they working’.”

Meanwhile, in MERCOSUR’s parliament, even officialist and opposition deputies rejected sanctions against Venezuela.

Venezuela: Conviction and Willingness for Dialogue 

A strongly-worded Ministry of Foreign Relations statement expressed that “they intend to impose the fraudulent suspension on Venezuela’s legitimate rights as a member-state, through falsely preconceived assumptions in order to attack and harass” the country. The sanction, “has no valid legal basis, lacks clear legal procedure and a collegiate body competent to decide,” the statement continued.

Meanwhile, Venezuela seeks to invoke mechanisms for dialogue stipulated in MERCOSUR’s regulations as it faces “aggressions and harassment against its pro tempore presidency”. Venezuela began procedures to implement the Olivos Protocol meant to settle disputes within the regional bloc on Monday December 5th.

The Venezuelan Ambassador to Mercosur and Latin American Integration Association (ALADI), José Félix Rivas Alvarado, said from the MERCOSUR Secretariat in Montevideo, Uruguay, “[there exists] the need to establish a space for negotiation [and] dialogue, aiming at restoring MERCOSUR’s legality and institutionality.”

For Rivas, MERCOSUR state parties “must sit down to discuss what has been violated and challenged by the lack of knowledge regarding Venezuela’s presidency, and the consequences this has had for the integrationist process that should be built on the basis of respect for rules and tolerance, accepting diversity and the plurality of different economic views or models.”

Bolivia, a state in the process becoming a MERCOSUR member, signed on to the call to begin the Olivos Protocol procedures. “Through dialogue we will be able to defend our institutions and MERCOSUR,” said Bolivian ambassador to MERCOSUR and ALADI, Benjamín Blanco.

The Uruguayans Come and Go

Vázquez and Nin Novoa: Yes, No, Maybe

From Vienna, Uruguayan President Tabaré Vázquez was ready to meet with his Venezuelan counterpart Nicolás Maduro to discuss Venezuela’s temporary suspension, a move he said was not “irreversible” and could be changed by applying legal reasoning and dialogue. 

“In politics and in relations between countries, nothing is irreversible, everything can change. But there has to be legal foundation, solid foundations, to see the path that we are going to follow into the future,” said Vázquez.

Uruguayan Foreign Minister Nin Novoa’s signature [in favor of Venezuela’s suspension] worried the ruling Broad Front (Frente Amplio) political party. The PIT-CNT Unitary Workers’ Central, emphatically pointed out that “the decision taken by [Novoa] does not represent the working classes at all and therefore we emphatically reject [his decision].”

A statement – in defense of institutionality and regional integration – presented by a diverse Venezuelan coalition (government officials and opponents like William Dávila and Luis Emilio Rondón) as well as MERCOSUR’s parliament (PARLASUR) unanimously decided to reaffirm the importance of member states preserving and protecting MERCOSUR’s founding norms and institutionality and urged them to channel their differences and disputes through institutional mechanisms provided by the regional bloc’s rules.

But Argentine, Brazilian and Paraguayan authoritarian governments are not interested in the opinion of their parliamentarians who, in short, are those who do not approve regional bloc treaties. The Argentine government is accused by the United Nations (UN) of holding political prisoners (PARLASUR deputy Milagro Sala), there is a corrupt government and coup in Brazil, and a government in Paraguay which is stained by the massacre of peasants in Curuguaty and the “soft” coup against constitutional President Fernando Lugo.

The Decision, a Legal Monstrosity

Malcorra and Serra: Shots Against Integration

Legally, the decision is grotesque. MERCOSUR norms do not authorize foreign ministers to make such decisions, forging unjustified excuses and even absurdly invoking the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, knowing that it does not apply to Venezuela as it is not a signatory.

This decision represents profound political and ideological intolerance against the Bolivarian Revolution, and through this, they continue to chip away at the integrationist process and MERCOSUR.

For experts, Venezuela has not only fully met Mercosur’s regulatory framework, and in four years incorporated 92% of the rules, a figure which is not reached by many of the so-called founding countries of the regional group 25 years ago. Venezuela has formally and officially adopted MERCOSUR’s rules to establish and regulate trade. 

“If they were at least consistent with their own lies, they should first suspend themselves, given their extravagant and scandalous delays in incorporating the rules,” says Venezuela’s Ministry of Foreign Relations statement with some humor.

Since Venezuela took over MERCOSUR’s pro tempore presidency on July 29th, right-wing governments in countries like Argentina, Paraguay and Brazil have launched a campaign to try to delegitimize the country and try to annul its right to exercise its role in the body, which violates the regional bloc’s rules.

When Venezuela signed on to MERCOSUR’s Accession Protocol, they focused on “the principles of graduality, flexibility and balance, recognition of asymmetries and differential treatment” criteria that underpin any integrationist model in the world but, which are totally unrecognized by Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay…and now, also Uruguay.

The suspension and possible expulsion of Venezuela as a MERCOSUR member marks a further negative milestone for the most important strategic regional integration process in the Southern Cone. In any commercial or integrationist agreement, when there is controversy or a dispute between the parties underway, the usual thing is to submit the issue in question to dialogue, negotiation and a resolution process by mutual agreement between the parties.

There is no doubt that the governments of Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay boycotted the pro-tempore presidency period of Venezuela: they ignored the calls for a working group meeting as well as excluded Venezuela from Minister of Foreign Affairs meetings and gatherings with other countries. However, until Venezuela is considered “expelled”, it remains a full member, let it hurt whomever it hurts.

What has occurred since August is evidently the clear political-ideological definition of rejecting Venezuela as part of the integration process: first, they tried to apply the Usuahia Protocol regarding MERCOSUR’s democratic commitment  and they could not, then the OAS Democratic Charter and again, they could not. And now, with the complicity of corporate mass media, they are trying to directly eliminate Venezuela from MERCOSUR.

The PARLASUR vice-president and Uruguayan deputy Daniel Caggiani asks, “What are the reasons behind the ignorance of all these MERCOSUR regulations? Is it not appropriate to ensure the sustainability of MERCOSUR as a bloc within this regional context that will surely have electoral changes in the coming years? Why is there a move towards the disarticulation of MERCOSUR, by suspending Venezuela and stalling Bolivia’s entry into the bloc? What MERCOSUR model do the governments of Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay want to instate?”

For our countries, the integration (of people and not just commerce) has deep strategic significance and in this instance it is not a question of mistakes but of irresponsibility with regards to the region’s future and its attempt for greater economic development as well as a more just and equitable distribution of wealth. It is about the rejection of sovereignty and the possibility of increasing growth through strengthening unity. As the former Venezuelan president Carlos Andrés Pérez said, it is “suicide”.

Rubén Armendáriz is an analyst with the Latin American Center for Strategic Analysis (CLAE-FILA).

Translated and edited by Jeanette Charles for Venezuelanalysis.com.