Venezuela’s entrance as a full member into the Common Market of the South (Mercosur) trade alliance topped the organization’s agenda last Tuesday during a meeting of heads of state held in the Uruguayan capital of Montevideo.
“I’m here on the ground, working for the integration and the unity of our America which is the only way to save ourselves from the global crisis”, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said upon arriving in Montevideo on Tuesday morning.
The trip marks the socialist leader’s first official voyage outside of Venezuela and Cuba since being diagnosed with cancer last June. Since 2006, Venezuela has been in a process of admission to the 20 year old trade alliance but has had its entrance stalled by the Paraguayan senate which has used political motivations to refuse the Caribbean nation’s full membership.
Chavez commented upon arrival that the intents by the Combating the global crisis: Venezuela participates in common market of the south Paraguayan senate to obstruct his nation’s membership only serve to hurt the economies of the alliance’s smaller nations which would gain from the OPEC member’s admittance.
“The day that we have full membership in Mercosur, Uruguay and Paraguay are going to be able to sell much more to Venezuela and we’ve been preparing for this from a structural point of view”, the head of state said.
Indeed, Venezuelan trade with Uruguay and Paraguay has been growing at a steady rate since Hugo Chavez became President in 1999. Over the past 12 years, commercial relations with Uruguay have climbed from $30 million a year to nearly $900 million while trade with Paraguay has increased from $20 million to $600 million.
That trade has the potential to double, Chavez said, with the unification of the countries in the regional alliance. But in order for a new country to join the Mercosur bloc, the organization’s charter requires the approval of the candidate state by the national legislature of each existing member.
In the case of Venezuela, the right-wing dominated Paraguayan senate represents the last hurdle to be cleared before entering as a full member. Using dubious allegations of a clamp down on freedoms by the Chavez administration as a way to block Venezuela’s entrance, Paraguay’s conservative opposition has handcuffed Fernando Lugo, the nation’s President and an adamant supporter of Venezuela’s admission to Mercosur.
“This administration’s position is very clear, we believe Venezuela must be incorporated to Mercosur but we are also very clear in so far that this must be done in the framework of the Constitution”, Lugo said before the summit.
VENEZUELA TO BE ADMITTED
Uruguayan President Jose Mujica, host of Tuesday’s summit, has also been among the more vocal proponents of Venezuela’s inclusion, calling for the consideration of a “legal formula” for the country’s admittance, outside the approval of the Paraguayan Senate. Before the summit, Mujica held a bilateral meeting with Lugo to discuss “Venezuela’s rapid inclusion in the regional bloc” Telesur reported.
The Uruguayan initiative to create a new mechanism to allow for Venezuela’s entrance was also discussed at length during the summit, yielding the formation of a special commission to study the issue and recommend a course of action.
Although specific details were not forthcoming at the close of the meeting, Mujica informed that the commission will take up both Venezuela’s and Ecuador’s incorporation into the bloc and will be comprised of functionaries designated by the heads of state themselves.
“I have the obligation to announce the accord between the presidents to form a high level commission that will be named by each of the presidents of Mercosur in order to attend to the possibilities of admittance… It will do all it can to recommend steps to Mercosur in spite of the problems that are facing various requests for joining”, the Uruguayan President said.
Chavez, who referred to his country’s petition as “a long process”, commented that the delay in admittance is a sign of the opportunism that still plagues a good part of Latin America politics.
“There is still a lack of will and a lot of bureaucracy that is standing in our way. There’s plenty of infiltrations from old interests that are trying to impede our unity, to divide and conquer”, he said.
Nevertheless, the socialist head of state affirmed that Venezuela, for all intents and purposes, feels as if it were already a member of the integrationist organization.
“We are here as associate members and we hope that Ecuador can become part of this bloc without the delays that Venezuela has had to face”, he stated.
Other business covered during the summit in Montevideo included the signing of a free trade agreement between member states and Palestine as well as the creation of the “Montevideo Protocol” which upholds the right to democracy in South America in the face of destabilizing forces and coup attempts.
VENEZUELA IN MERCOSUR WILL BENEFIT SMALLER NATIONS
On his arrival to Montevideo, the capital of Uruguay, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said that Venezuela’s entry as a full member to Common Market of the South (Mercosur), will benefit smaller countries that are part of this subregional union.
“Venezuela is a strong engine for economic and political unity. We ratify our status as an associate member of Mercosur and our goal to further advance towards becoming a full member”, said the Venezuelan President.
President Chavez remarked that Mercosur is missing many things, one of them is the physical proximity to the Caribbean.
“We (Venezuela) open the door of the Caribbean to Mercosur, joining Rio de La Plata with the Orinoco”.
Chavez added that Brazil and Venezuela are countries with “intense” industries, for that reason, he considers that Venezuela can help expand the economies of member countries of Mercosur.
“I am the first to raise our hands when asked if Venezuela wants to buy more products and trade with Uruguay. The day that Venezuela has full membership in Mercosur, Uruguay and Paraguay will be able to sell much more to Venezuela and we have been preparing for this from a structural point of view”, he explained.
Also, President Chavez said Venezuela plans to expand its oil refineries, “to provide energy independence and create a much larger market for the Uruguayans, Paraguayans, Argentines and Brazilians”.
Edited by Venezuelanalysis