Venezuela Membership in Mercosur and CAN Still in Doubt

The Foreign Ministers of Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru reiterated their call for Venezuela to rejoin the Community of Andean Nations (CAN). Meanwhile, Venezuela's full membership in Mercosur suffered another delay in Brazil's Congress.

Caracas, September 27, 2007 ( – The Foreign Ministers of Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru, who met yesterday in New York during the United Nations General Assembly, reiterated their call for Venezuela to rejoin the Community of Andean Nations (CAN). Meanwhile, Venezuela's full membership in Mercosur suffered another delay in Brazil's Congress.

Venezuela withdrew from CAN in April 2006 in a decision that Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez described as the time as "irrevocable." Chavez argued then that the sub-regional process of integration had "died" due to the actions of Colombia and Peru in signing Free Trade Agreements with the United States. The other member countries of CAN are Bolivia and Ecuador.

However, last month Venezuela indicated that it would consider rejoining CAN if social justice issues such as health, education and literacy were added to the agenda of the group's activities.

The meeting of the Council of Foreign Ministers of CAN was presided over by Colombian Foreign Minister, Fernando Araújo, (Colombia was elected in June to the Pro Tempore presidency of CAN for the period 2007- 2008), who said, "Surely we can establish negotiations in this respect and achieve the reintegration of Venezuela into CAN."

"Venezuela has said that it will present a document of a technical character, specifying the conditions in which it will return," commented Araújo. Araújo added they were waiting for the document to analyze the conditions that would best achieve Venezuela's return to the regional trading block.

The governments of Bolivia and Ecuador have repeatedly called for Venezuela's return to CAN, and Rafael Correa, President of Ecuador, has offered to host a special summit to discuss the issue if Venezuela agrees to rejoin.

After its withdrawal from CAN last year, Venezuela turned its attention to gaining full membership of the Mercosur (Common Market of the South) trading block, which consists of Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay and Paraguay. Although the presidents of all four Mercosur countries approved of Venezuela's entry last year, its formal full admission has stalled recently.

While the Argentine and Uruguayan legislatures have approved Venezuela's bid for full membership, the decision hinges on the approval from the parliaments of all member nations and has been repeatedly held up by the Brazilian Congress in which there are strong opposition sectors critical of the left policies of the Chavez government. Venezuela's membership is also yet to be approved by the right wing controlled Paraguayan legislature.

Yesterday, the Commission for Foreign Relations in the Brazilian Congress once again postponed its vote on Venezuela's membership, until October 24, putting in doubt Venezuela's full entrance into MERCOSUR by the end of this year. According to both government and opposition deputies the decision was postponed due to technical problems in the negotiations.

The repeated delays have lead Chavez to accuse the opposition deputies in the Brazilian Congress of being spokespeople for the interests of Washington. Last Thursday, during his visit to the Brazilian city of Manaos, Chavez said that the "hand of imperialism" is holding back Venezuela's entrance into MERCOSUR and the Brazilian Senate aims to block Venezuela's incorporation into MERCOSUR because of its "submission to the United States."

However, Brazil's President, Lula da Silva, assured Chavez that all possible efforts are being made to accelerate the process.

If approved by Brazil's Commission of Foreign Relations, the protocol is that admission must be passed by the Commission of Constitution and Justice, and then a full plenary of the Brazilian Congress. A similar process must then be carried out in the Senate, the majority of which is controlled by is the opposition Social Democratic Party of Brazil.

According to an article by the South American news service, ANSA, the majority of Brazilian businesses support Venezuela's full incorporation into MERCOSUR, particularly, in the construction and infrastructure sectors.