Brazil Votes to Accept Venezuela into Mercosur

After two years of debate, the Brazilian senate voted on Tuesday to admit Venezuela to the Common Market of the South trade bloc, Mercosur.

Merida, December 16th, 2009 ( – After two years of debate, the Brazilian senate voted on Tuesday to admit Venezuela to the Common Market of the South trade bloc, Mercosur.

Following a five hour session, 35 senators voted in favour and 27 against. A Telesur journalist in Brazil, Gabriel Fialho, reported that the Brazilian opposition had been against approving Venezuela because, according to them, Venezuela is still undemocratic.

Government factions responded that Venezuela’s membership in the bloc goes beyond its government’s politics, and that its economic, social and cultural contributions should be taken into consideration. Others highlighted the advantages of free trade with Venezuela, and opposition senators responded that the supposed undemocratic nature of the government of President Hugo Chavez would threaten the possibility of agreements with other countries and blocs.

The protocol for Venezuela to become a full member was signed by the governments of Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay and Paraguay on 4 June 2006, but until Tuesday only the parliaments of Argentina and Uruguay had ratified it.

Now only the Paraguayan parliament needs to vote in order for Venezuela to formally become a complete member of Mercosur. However Paraguay’s senate chamber is controlled by the right wing opposition and is unlikely to approve Venezuela’s entry soon. Last August president Fernando Lugo withdrew the request to add Venezuela to Mercosur from the parliament; given the unlikelihood it would be passed. The Paraguayan foreign relations minister was also worried if it wasn’t approved it could “generate problems in bilateral relations with Venezuela”.

The Brazilian minister for foreign affairs, Celso Amorim, said Venezuela’s entry into Mercosur will “strengthen the effort in advancing towards [regional] integration.”

He also said that once Venezuela joined the bloc, it would then include 270 million people and represent almost 76% of South America’s GDP.

The president of Mercosur, Juan Dominguez said the addition of Venezuela would widen already existing relations and commercial exchange, and that the possibility of other countries participating in the exploitation of the Orinoco Oil Belt in Venezuela would contribute to the development of those countries.

Venezuela’s foreign minister, Nicolas Maduro, agreed, saying that Venezuela’s admission to the bloc, “will multiply the incentives for economic and commercial relations,” and would be a step towards “the construction of the a large economic zone of South American development.”

The Mercosur trade bloc was established by the four current member countries in 1991, and is now a key economic force on the continent. It’s formally stated objective is to “expand the dimensions of their national markets, through integration, as a fundamental condition in order to accelerate the processes of economic development with social justice.”