The Paraguayan Executive sent this week to congress a bill requesting the incorporation of Venezuela to Mercosur. Paraguay’s legislative confirmation is the last step to complete the long process, begun in 2006, for Venezuela to become a full member of the South American block currently made up of Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay and Paraguay.
The request was received and dispatched to the Senate’s Foreign Affairs committees which must decide whether to include it in the agenda, later discuss it and finally hold a vote at the full house.
A previous attempt a few months ago was withdrawn by the Executive since there were insufficient votes to support the initiative.
Paraguayan president Fernando Lugo does not have control of congress since the catch-all coalition which supported his candidacy has atomized and there is a strong group of Paraguayan senators that openly question Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez “democratic” ways and means, and his treatment of the opposition and the media.
When Mercosur presidents back in 2006 approved the incorporation of Venezuela to Mercosur, Argentine and Uruguayan lawmakers were the first to approve the initiative with not much discussion.
With Brazil it was quite a battle since President Chavez made some offensive remarks towards Brazilian senators who criticized his attacks on the media and persecution of members of the opposition.
Finally at the end of 2009, President Lula da Silva taking advantage of political circumstances managed to bring together the necessary votes to have Venezuela’s incorporation to Mercosur approved, even when some heavy weights of his Workers Party were against the controversial initiative.
It was Corporate Brazil’s (with huge infrastructure contracts in oil rich Venezuela) lobbying and pragmatic Lula da Silva’s argument, “better have him (Chavez) inside than outside doing who ever knows what” that eventually took the day.
Since then the pressure has been on Paraguayan president Lugo and congress.
However Lugo has been seriously ill and in under chemotherapy treatment following the discovery of lymphatic cancer nodules and even when the Senate remains dispersed, recent municipal elections (the opposition won in the capital Asunción) anticipate a new political map and alliances for 2013.
Furthermore Brazil has promised Paraguay a huge infrastructure aid package which remains undelivered, apparently until there is a positive reaction to the Mercosur vote.
Given this scenario it could be possible that outgoing president Lula da Silva could be stepping down (January first) having secured the incorporation to Mercosur as full member of Hugo Chavez’ Venezuela: definitively an excellent trade, energy and political deal for Latinamerica’s largest economy.