Venezuela’s incorporation to Mercosur as full member seems closer as the Paraguayan Senate readies to consider the issue following on political agreements worked out by President Fernando Lugo.
The Paraguayan government would like to have the issue over on time for the coming Mercosur presidential summit next December 17 when Paraguay takes over the pro tempore presidency of the group from Brazil.
Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez announced the decision to join Mercosur in December 2006 and although the process had a quick approval from the Argentine and Uruguayan legislatives, the Brazilian congress after strong lobbying from President Lula da Silva only managed to have it passed at the end of 2009, while a weakened Paraguayan government had to withdraw the request (August 2009) uncertain about the final vote.
However under strong diplomatic pressure from Brazil and Argentina, Paraguayan president Lugo has been involved in horse-trading with the Liberal party, the main group of his faded electoral coalition and with dissident opposition Colorado senators, which could add up to the magic number of 23 out of 45, simple majority as requested by the Paraguayan system.
Lugo has three votes that respond to him, the Liberals could contribute with 14 and the Unace dissidents with 9, theoretically 26.
However the Liberals announced after meeting with Lugo that the issue will be first considered by the party’s Political Bureau and Directory.
According to the Asunción press the Liberals were promised the embassies in Uruguay and Brazil which have been vacant for over twelve months since there was no political agreement on nominations. Lugo had to desist of his candidates.
Senator Jorge Oviedo Matto, spokesperson for the Unace nine senators group said he personally is against supporting Venezuela’s Mercosur request while Chavez is president, but revealed that he will vote following his party’s indications.
Oviedo Matto admitted his group will get the embassy in Lebanon which is an important post for the significant Middle East community in Paraguay as well as posts in the Electoral Council and Justice and admitting former president Nicanor Duarter Frutos take his seat in Congress.
“My colleagues have underlined the economic and strategic importance of Venezuela for Paraguay and Mercosur, and so have our members of the Mercosur parliament”, said Senator Oviedo Matto.
The main Colorado party opposition group anticipated it will not accompany the initiative which has already been sent to Congress.
“It’s an institutional decision, no to Venezuela as long as Chavez is around: He does not comply with democratic rules and respect for opposition and the media, so he should not be admitted”, said Senator Silvio Ovelar.
According to President Lugo administration sources if Venezuela’s adhesion protocol to Mercosur receives a positive vote, it will immediately request Paraguay’s incorporation to the Unasur, Union of South American Nations.
“But our main and immediate objective, a question of national commitment must be with Mercosur and the December 17th presidential summit”, said sources close to the Lugo administration.
Following a political agreement at South American level, Paraguay is scheduled to take the presidency of Unasur August 2011.
The Unasur charter needs to be voted by nine of the twelve country members to become institutionally legal. So far eight countries have done so and Uruguay has promised to complete the vote this week.