Paraguayan senators challenge Chavez version of attempted bribes to favour Venezuela
An international controversy has surfaced between President Hugo Chavez and Paraguayan senators as to who really tried to bribe whom regarding failed attempts to have Venezuela incorporated to Mercosur.
Venezuela first applied for Mercosur full membership in 2006, but only managed it this week after in special circumstances and with a process that international law experts describe as “highly questionable” when not null and void
On Friday a Paraguayan Senator quoted by the Spanish press said that the brother of President Chavez offered money to at least one lawmaker so that his country’s congress would vote the incorporation of Venezuela to Mercosur.
“The President of the Paraguayan congress Jorge Ovideo Matto claims that there were repeated offerings of money from emissaries responding to President Chavez brother begging for the approval of Venezuela’s inclusion in Mercosur”, according to Madrid’s conservative daily ABC.
“With me he (Chavez) never spoke, but yes he did send emissaries through a brother of his, I believe he has more than one brother, offering money. It was him (Chavez) that was offering money and was trying that way to change the vote of members from Congress” said Senator Ovideo Matto.
“The only thing I’m sure of is that Chavez sent money through members of Congress; that is a categorical fact, and not only to try and bribe lawmakers”, underlined the president of the Paraguayan Senate.
Venezuelan president Chavez earlier in the week revealed that “last year” he met with Senator Lino Oviedo (without specifying which of the two with the same last name) in Brazil where money was asked to accept the inclusion of Venezuela to the regional trade block, since only the Paraguayan Senate was pending approval for the incorporation.
Senator Oviedo Matto said the news is nothing new since the money offers by Chavez brother were made public by Senator Zulma Gomez before the Paraguayan Senate in October 2011. The lawmaker admitted having been approached by an emissary who was promising 100.000 dollars for those who voted for Venezuela.
Chavez talked about the issue on his return to Caracas from Brasilia where the three presidents of Mercosur; Cristina Fernandez, Argentina, Jose Mujica, Uruguay and Dilma Rousseff, Brazil, since Paraguay was suspended, formalized the inclusion of Venezuela as full member of Mercosur.
He said that on the suggestion from Brazil’s Lula da Silva, ‘some time ago’ he flew to Sao Paulo where he met with Senator Oviedo to talk about the issue. The talks included phone calls with President Fernando Lugo and former president Nicanor Duarte.
“Nothing was achieved since a bunch of extreme right Paraguayan Senators, instruments of the US empire, wanted millions of dollars for their vote, but I couldn’t permit extortion of Venezuela to prosper, and did not yield”, according to Chavez.
He added he told the Senators that “the time will come and the time came for the decent inclusion of Venezuela to Mercosur by the front door with no tricks”.
Paraguay was suspended from Mercosur following the removal from the presidential office of Fernando Lugo, following a summary impeachment described by the three full member presidents, as “a rupture of democratic institutions”.