LATIN AMERICA

Mercosur blocks Venezuela from assuming presidency of trading bloc

The four founding countries have backed Brazil’s position and are also threatening expulsion

Graffiti in Caracas, reading: “We don’t want Maduro or his neo-liberal package.”
Graffiti in Caracas, reading: “We don’t want Maduro or his neo-liberal package.”AFP

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Brazil’s new president Michel Temer has won his first diplomatic battle, after the announcement that Venezuela will not be allowed to take over the rotating presidency of the strife-torn South American trading bloc Mercosur.

Venezuela is also at risk of being kicked out of the group if it does not meet membership requirements within three months, Temer said in a statement signed by fellow bloc founders Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay.

Venezuela formally announced it would take over the rotating Mercosur presidency in July but Brazil and Paraguay rejected the move, creating a power vacuum for the bloc during critical trade talks with the European Union.

A power vacuum was created in the bloc during critical trade talks with the European Union

Repeated attempts to break that deadlock at the top have failed, revealing deep divisions among Mercosur nations. While Brazil and Paraguay have consistently taken a hardline stance against a Venezuela led by Nicolás Maduro, Uruguay has remained open to the idea of the country taking on the presidency.

Argentina’s position, meanwhile, has been more ambiguous, with some Buenos Aires-based analysts saying that the country’s foreign minister, Susana Malcorra, has been careful not to put Venezuela offside as she makes a bid to become United Nations general secretary.

Her attempt to not ruffle feathers now seems a thing of the past, however, after the release of the new joint statement by Venezuela’s fellow Mercosur members. This statement calls on Venezuela to fulfill its membership commitments and incorporate Mercosur trade rules in national legislation.

The language in the statement is deliberately vague but Brazilian Chancellor José Serra was quick to interpret the words as a diplomatic victory for his country’s position.

The statement calls on Venezuela to incorporate Mercosur trade rules in national legislation

“Venezuela won’t take over the presidency of Mercosur, which will now be carried out by a joint commission formed by representatives of the four founding members. If, on December 2, Venezuela hasn’t met the commitments it made on entering [the bloc], it will be expelled from Mercosur,” Serra said.

Venezuela has yet to make an official response, with diplomatic ties between it and Brazil in tatters since the impeachment of former Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff.

English version by George Mills.

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