Uruguayan Vice president Danilo Astori openly clashed with President Jose Mujica over the recent decision to incorporate Venezuela to Mercosur arguing it was “the deepest institutional injury” suffered by the block and questioned the concept that the juridical “has to be at the service of the political”.
In a column under the heading of “Mercosur: impossible and dangerous silences” released by his grouping, Frente Liber Seregni, Astori claimed the right to open debates on government positions, particularly in moments “when I have important differences”. And reiterated his opposition to the access of Venezuela to Mercosur, “ignoring the current institutional order”, which “I consider negative for the regional block, for Uruguay and even for Venezuela”.
Last week President Mujica said Astori “was wrong” when he argued that the incorporation of Venezuela to Mercosur had been “a lethal injury” for the regional block.
“Reality was that we were frozen, nothing moved, nothing happened. There’s nothing lethal; lethal was how we were before: we’ve been saying for years that Mercosur is not working and if it didn’t work we have to change it, or do we want Mercosur to keep criticizing it”.
But then Mujica added the phrase that sent shock waves through public opinion and the political system: “the juridical concept must be at the service of the political. Politics is the art of human relations and the juridical is to ensure guarantees. When the juridical does not abide repeatedly, then it must be changed”, said President Mujica.
Astori insisted in his reaction to Mujica’s statements: “I don’t share the decision to let Venezuela in as a full member because it is a very important institutional aggression for Mercosur. It’s a very serious institutional injury, probably the most serious in the 21 years of Mercosur”.
Vice president Astori said that the position of Uruguay when leaving Montevideo for the Mercosur summit in Mendoza, Argentina was that of not supporting Venezuela’s incorporation in those circumstances, when one of the full members Paraguay, had been suspended. Particularly since the Paraguayan congress had repeatedly been against the incorporation of President Hugo Chavez Venezuela to Mercosur.
“What happened during the summit to revert the position of the Uruguayan delegation? We don’t know” admitted Astori, who also asked other questions which did not have a reply.
“The position agreed by the Uruguayan delegation before leaving for the summit was wrong? Did it not contemplate the changes which have happened in Mercosur or in the regional strategy for coming years? Who opened our eyes to the new situation? What circumstances which we don’t know made that the political should be above the juridical? With this statement it is explicitly recognized that legal and institutional norms which I consider fundamental for all the members of the block and that are at the basis of the very existence of Mercosur, have been ignored”.
“The greatest regression and most serious suffered by Mercosur in all its complex history is that now the only institutionalism valid is not that of the treaties, it’s not that of mechanisms which protect us all and demanded long exhausting negotiations. Now we depend exclusively on the decisions from the presidents”, said Astori.
He added that the resolution deciding the incorporation of Venezuela “could have serious consequences for the future such as having an institutionalism so weak that it becomes worthless”.
Nevertheless Astori pointed out that he supported the incorporation of Venezuela to Mercosur and that is why in the Mendoza summit “a serious mistake was committed”. Unless after so much erosion of foundational Mercosur “we have to substitute it by another integrated block which means the incorporation of new countries and if this is the possible angle, even for consideration it should have been presented more explicitly”
The Uruguayan Vice-president adds he prefers “another path which is to strengthen foundational Mercosur and of course, not to criticize it but to display the enormous potential it has in support for economic and social development of our countries. Naturally a strong Mercosur will be able to reach agreements with other blocks and countries in Latin America and the world. But it is not possible to throw overboard the efforts and experience accumulated since 1991”.
Further on Astori points out that the regional block “is not a union of governments but of countries, of States” and underlines that the “weakening of Mercosur institutions only favours adversaries”.
“It’s not a formal whim: there is no contradiction between legality and politics. On the contrary it is good to remember because it has to do with deep definitions for the left, and that is: that it can’t, it mustn’t subjugate the law to politics”.
Finally Astori questions what will happen when Paraguay’s suspension is lifted after 2013 with a new president and a new congress. “Will the accords Parliament ratification mechanism for access of new members be valid again? If there are new countries that wish to join, “which is to be the mechanism to approve such incorporation? Will legality or politics prevail?
President Mujica’s reply to the column, following the initial shock was to downplay the controversy saying he was most respectful of comrade Vice president.
“I have my way of thinking and I respect very much comrade Vice president. It’s not the first time nor will it be the last in which we have different opinions”, said Mujica adding that “I consider this democratically healthy because it’s a way of debating in an honest and respectful way”