Chavez announces trip to Brazil for Venezuela’s formal admission to Mercosur
President Hugo Chavez said he will be attending at the end of July the coming Mercosur meeting in Brasil when Venezuela will officially become the group’s fifth full member, a decision that has proved controversial and exposed differences inside the Common Market of the South.
“On July 30 I will have to be at the special ceremony in Brazil to formalize the full incorporation of Venezuela to Mercosur, a ceremony I can’t miss” said Chavez from Caracas.
Venezuela was admitted into Mercosur last June 29 during the Mercosur summit in Mendoza, Argentina which also decided to suspend Paraguay until new elections are held. Venezuela first requested to belong to Mercosur in 2006 and the only pending vote was from the Paraguayan congress which systematically rejected the presence of Chavez in the group.
However Paraguayan President Fernando Lugo favoured the incorporation but never had the votes or the political ability to convince and increasingly isolated ended up removed from his post following an impeachment where he only managed one vote in the Lower House and four in the Senate.
The impeachment was triggered following a shootout between police officers and landless peasants occupying a farm and nearby forest, which left ten peasants and seven officers killed. Land disputes are common in Paraguay but never to this extent of killings and have become a highly sensitive political issue.
On July 31 the three remaining Mercosur active presidents, Dilma Rousseff from Brazil, Cristina Fernandez from Argentina and Jose Mujica from Uruguay, should be congratulating and embracing the new member.
The country which has most questioned the decision has been Uruguay: while President Mujica openly supports the decision, Vice-President Danilo Astori has been extremely critical questioning the process chosen for the incorporation of Venezuela, with one of the full members suspended. Foreign minister Luis Almagro is somewhere half way and has asked experts of the ministry about the legality of the decision.
President Chavez also announced that Social Affairs minister from Argentina, Alicia Kirchner arrived in Caracas over the weekend and that next Thursday Defence Minister Arturo Puricelli, currently on an official visit to China is expected in Venezuela.
Chavez is in the midst of a presidential campaign for his re-election next October and the incorporation to Mercosur is seeing as a boost for his aspirations although he has a comfortable lead in the public opinion polls.
What is more interesting is that if Chavez finally travels to Brazil, it will be his first overseas trip since he was diagnosed with a yet undetermined cancer that forced him to slow down his rhythm of activity and spend long weeks away from Venezuela in Cuba where he is undergoing the treatment for his disease.