Venezuela Considers Re-Joining Andean Community of Nations

The Andean Community of Nations (CAN) welcomed comments by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez saying he is considering Venezuela’s reentry into the regional trade block.

Caracas , September 4, 2007 ( – The Andean Community of Nations (CAN) welcomed comments by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez saying he is considering Venezuela’s reentry into the regional trade block. CAN Secretary General Freddy Ehlers said, “The reentrance of Venezuela is fundamental” because it will give renewed impetus to the process of consolidating Andean and Latin American integration.

Venezuela withdrew from CAN in April of last year to protest Peru and Colombia's signing of bilateral free trade agreements with the United States. However, Chavez has said Venezuela would consider rejoining CAN if social issues were added to the agenda of the group’ s activities.

Chavez made the comments on Friday August 31 after a meeting in Bogotá with Colombian president Alvaro Uribe to discuss his role in mediating peace negotiations with the FARC. In response, Colombia, which holds the pro-tempore secretariat of the CAN, has agreed to call an extraordinary summit to discuss the issue.

Ehlers said the presidents and foreign ministers of the Andean countries had solicited the return of Venezuela to CAN and that Rafael Correa, president of Ecuador has offered the Galápagos as the site for the extraordinary summit.

Despite recent diplomatic differences, the President of Peru, Alan Garcia has also welcomed as “good news” the proposal for a summit to discuss Venezuela’s reentry into CAN. Venezuela’s return to CAN is an “objective to which the government in Lima should dedicate their maximum effort,” the Peruvian opposition leader Ollanta Humala commented.

Venezuelan deputy Alfredo Murga, a deputy in the parliament of the Southern Common Market ( MERCOSUR ), told AFP that he did not think the return of Venezuela to CAN would be incompatible with Venezuela’s full integration into MERCOSUR . The MERCOSUR Parliament (PARLASUR), which is formed by full members Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay, has been meeting over Monday and Tuesday this week in Montevideo, Uruguay.

PARLASUR rejected a motion on Monday to “analyze the situation of freedom of expression” in Venezuela, which is in the process of integration into MERCOSUR. The motion only gained the support of 20 delegates, with 60 delegates voting against, falling short of the 30 votes required to be included in the order of the day.

The motion, which was moved by Uruguayan deputy, Pablo Iturralde, had the support of his colleagues from the National Party and the Colorado Party, (both in opposition to the governing Frente Amplio in Uruguay), as well as the delegation from Paraguay and some Brazilian legislators. However, it did not receive the support of the official legislators of Uruguay, the majority of the Brazilian delegation, and the entire Argentinean delegation.

Iturralde’s motion comes on the back of Venezuela’s decision in May not to renew the public broadcast license of RCTV, a private television station which violated Venezuela’s media laws. Iturralde argued that the right to freedom of expression is being questioned in Venezuela, and that it was therefore necessary to establish an investigative commission into the issue before approving Venezuela’s entrance into MERCOSUR as a full member.

Venezuela ’s representative Murga, on the other hand, rejected Iturralde’s claims, saying that although he was happy to debate the issue, Iturralde’s motion was “out of context” and was a fundamental interference into the internal affairs of Venezuela.

Conversely, Uruguayan Foreign Minister Reinaldo Gargano, during a visit to Caracas last week to strengthen trade links between Venezuela and Uruguay, said that Venezuela’s non-inclusion into MERCOSUR was “an historical error” that should be rectified as soon as possible. The full entrance of Venezuela into MERCOSUR is required to be ratified by the parliaments of the existing members.

The legislatures of Argentina and Uruguay have approved Venezuela’s bid for full membership, however, “We are still waiting for the sovereign decision of the Brazilian Parliament and Paraguayan Parliament,” Murga concluded.