Paraguayan president Fernando Lugo called on Congress, under opposition control, to support the incorporation of Venezuela to Mercosur, as has already been voted by Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil.
“Let’s think seriously in terms of the future in a more balanced integration. A country which wants to expand Mercosur and that this will inevitably benefit both economically and commercially our country (Paraguay)” said Lugo, during a meeting with his cabinet in Chaco, to the west of the country.
Last week the Senate and the Lower House renewed speakers following a political agreement between Lugo’s coalition and the main opposition party which has the largest representation in Congress.
“We need to work with the lawmakers in those projects that are of interest to the country, and thus overcome the difficulties we had in previous years”, said Lugo in direct reference to a possible understanding on a positive vote for Venezuela’s Mercosur incorporation.
Since 2006 when the Venezuelan original petition and the consensual adhesion protocol, Argentina and Uruguay gave the matter a quick legislative approval, but the administration of president Lula da Silva only managed to work out an agreement last December. That leaves the Paraguayan congress as the last hurdle for Venezuela’s adhesion as a full Mercosur member.
As happened with the Brazilian Senate, Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez is not loved by many Paraguayan lawmakers, among which Vice-president Federico Franco, who have anticipated their willingness to support Venezuela once the controversial leader is out of office.
But Lugo called on Congress to avoid “prejudices” and not limit a country, of millions of souls “to an only name”.
Following the political agreement with the Colorado party, for over six decades the dominating political force in Paraguay, Senator Oscar Gonzalez Daher who will be speaker for the Senate as of next July first said “Venezuela was not part of the political deal agreed, but we continue to negotiate”.
Similarly with the new head of the Lower House, Victor Bogado, who also anticipated that the Colorado party is willing “to keep discussing and working for the good of the country”.
Brazil which is particularly interested in Venezuela’s full incorporation to Mercosur, under the argument that it’s better to have President Chavez ‘inside’ and partially under control that ‘outside’ making outer regional alliances, has been putting strong pressure on Paraguay for the approval.
President Lula da Silva top advisors have told the Paraguayans plainly and directly that Brazil wants Venezuela in because of two magic words: energy and trade, “and we are going to achieve it before the president steps down next January”.
Meantime Brazil has suspended promised additional revenue from the shared Itaipú dam, the world’s largest operational power plant and are delaying the approval of several ‘infrastructure cohesion” soft loans in the framework of Mercosur financial resources, which President Lugo desperately needs.
This latest political agreement has also been reached with the Colorado party main group which responds to former president Nicanor Duarte Flores, and in Lugo’s presidential campaign a “caricature” of the corruption, mismanagement and what has been wrong in Paraguay for the last six decades.
Lugo and a catch-all movement defeated the hegemonic Colorado party in April 2008, but have since faced a fiercely entrenched bureaucracy mostly loyal to the Colorados.