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Venezuela Sends First Export Shipment as Full Member of Mercosur

Mérida, 24th August 2012 ( – Venezuela’s first export shipment as part of the Market of the South (Mercosur) trade bloc left port yesterday, following Venezuela’s entrance as a full Mercosur member last 31 July. Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay are also members.

On course for Brazil and Uruguay, the shipment contains a cargo of 56,000 litres of agro-chemicals, as well as aluminium, glass, and fertilizer.

“We’re fulfilling an instruction of President Hugo Chavez within the framework of the Bolivarian dream of unity and integration,” said industries minister Ricardo Menendez at the ceremony accompanying the ship’s departure from Puerto Caballo, Carabobo state.

The minister highlighted the economic advantages of Venezuela’s membership of the Mercosur, declaring, “Mercosur is a lever for the development of our country. Furthermore it represents a source of knowledge transfer for broadening our technology and the national productive apparatus”.

The export shipment has been criticised by some international and Venezuelan private media sources, with Reuters reporting that imports into Venezuela have increased by 27% in the first half of this year compared with the same period in 2011.

The Venezuelan government’s commerce minister, Edmée Benacourt, argued yesterday that Venezuela stood to gain from exporting to the Mercosur bloc.

“Mercosur has U$ 600 billion in commerce, of which $315 billion are imports. We see an opportunity there,” she said, adding that covering even 1% of this market would have an enormous impact for Venezuela.

The Jose Leonardo Chirinos container ship carrying the shipment is part of a fleet of three such vessels belonging to the government’s new Venezuelan Shipping Corporation (Venevega), created to boost Venezuela’s imports and exports.

Venezuela entered the Mercosur on 31 July following the temporary suspension of Paraguay from the bloc, after its president Fernando Lugo was ousted from office on 22 June by the Paraguayan senate in what many Latin American nations termed an “institutional coup”. The conservative-dominated Paraguayan senate and parliament had blocked Venezuela’s entry into Mercosur since 2006.

While Venezuela is now a full member, the process of adjusting to the bloc’s common external tariff policy will likely take several months.

Paraguayan stance

Yesterday the Paraguayan senate voted 31 – 3 to reject Venezuela’s entry into the Mercosur. The vote is symbolic rather than judicial in nature, as Paraguay is suspended from Mercosur decision-making until new presidential elections in 2013.

Paraguay has also been temporarily suspended from the Union of South American Nations (Unasur) for a “rupture of democratic order” after the destitution of Lugo and the appointment of new president Federico Franco by the Paraguayan senate

Railing against Paraguay’s current geopolitical situation, Maria Liz Garcia, Paraguay’s new defence minister, attacked the Unasur, Mercosur and Venezuela on Wednesday.

She criticised the Mercosur presidents of not having “the necessary political capacity to respect a nation living next to them,” while claiming that the Unasur “no longer generates trust, at least in Paraguay”.

Garcia also repeated the Franco regime’s charge that Venezuelan foreign minister, Nicolas Maduro, meddled in Paraguay’s internal affairs during Lugo’s destitution. The claims have been highly questioned by a range of diplomatic and media sources.

Her comments have led to speculation that Paraguay may attempt to join the Pacific Commercial Alliance, which has Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica and Mexico as members, all of which enjoy closer relations with the United States.

Published on Aug 24th 2012 at 5.07pm