Venezuelan President Accuses U.S. for Problems With Mercosur

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez accused the government of the United States yesterday of causing the difficulties Venezuela has had in joining the South American trade block Mercosur.

Mérida, August 2, 2007 (— Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez accused the government of the United States yesterday of causing the difficulties Venezuela has had in joining the South American trade block Mercosur. Chavez made the statement at an event where he provided housing subsidies and credits to middle class families around the country.

"I am sure that these difficulties are a product of the actions of the empire," said Chavez yesterday. "Inside Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, and Paraguay [Washington] pays people off. They pay very well. They have newspapers and television networks and they try to confuse and scare people."

"I am sure that there is consciousness in Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, and Paraguay that we are being subjected to an intense campaign from Washington They don’t want us to become united," assured Chavez.

Venezuela’s entrance into Mercosur as a full member is still awaiting the approval of Brazilian Congress as well as that of Paraguay. The Venezuelan government wanted to enter Mercosur since 1998, according to Chavez, but has only in recent years seen it as a realistic opportunity due to the elections of Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva in Brazil, Tabaré Vazquez in Uruguay, and Nestor Kirchner in Argentina, whose presidents all approved Venezuela’s entry into Mercosur last year.

For Venezuela’s member ship to be official all member countries’ legislatures have to approve of it as well. Recently, though, the Brazilian Congress, due to its more conservative bent and its dislike of the growing influence of Hugo Chavez in the region has delayed the approval. This, in turn, led Chavez to put a September deadline to Venezuela’s membership.

"Problems have come up, mostly in the parliaments. But I have said that we can’t wait ad infinitum," he said. "Everything has been done, here in Caracas there was a summit. I think it is important for Mercosur to grow."

Chavez emphasized the importance of regional integration and assured that Venezuela’s entry into Mercosur would carry the trade block all the way to the Caribbean and would include important oil resources. Chavez also recognized the importance of Mexico in the integration of the region.
"We need Mexico with us for integration, every country, and the largest countries like Brazil, Argentina, Mexico, and even the small countries. We need all nations for true integration," he said.

In addition to Brazil’s legislature, the legislature of Paraguay also must still approve. Argentina and Uruguay have already approved the measure.

Housing Subsidies

At the same event, President Chavez issued 12.6 billion bolivars (US$ 5.8 million) in housing credits, and 5 billion bolivars (US$ 2.3 million) in housing subsidies to 318 families. These housing credits and subsidies form a part of a housing program for middle-class Venezuelans carried out by the Ministry of Housing and Habitat.

The purpose of the program is to allow middle class families to have easy access to housing credits with favorable conditions and to provide this sector of the population with housing. The government housing credits will go towards subsidizing private sector housing and will allow these families to purchase houses from private real estate constructors. Chavez emphasized that this demonstrates the government’s commitment to the private sector.

"In this initiative we are together, government and private companies," he said. "Of course, only those private companies that want to cooperate with the work we are doing in improving the quality of life."

Chavez pointed out that accusations that his government wants to eliminate the private sector have no basis.

"This is evidence that those assertions that the government is only concerned with eliminating private companies are mere attacks without any foundation," he said.