The Mercosur summit which meets this week, December 6/7 in Brasilia is scheduled to debate the incorporation of Ecuador and Bolivia to the regional block which earlier this year, after waiting since 2006 finally integrated Venezuela as full member.
President Dilma Rousseff is the host and will pass the chair on to Uruguay for the next six months skipping Paraguay currently suspended from the group. Argentine Cristina Fernandez, Uruguay’s Jose Mujica, Bolivia’s Evo Morales have confirmed their attendance.
Paraguayan president Federico Franco will be absent since the country following the removal of Fernando Lugo last June has been suspended until next April 2013 when elections are scheduled. Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez is under cancer treatment in Cuba and will be represented by his Vice president and Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro. Most other South American countries have also been invited since they are associate members.
“The incorporation of Ecuador and Bolivia to Mercosur is in the agenda of the meetings, it has been in previous summits”, said a spokesperson for the Brazilian Foreign ministry. However “there are no prospects of a definitive decision”, even when Brazil supports expanding the regional block.
Bolivian president Morales confirmed in November that Ecuador and his office has received formal invitations to join as full members and admitted it was the intention of his country to effectively do so. Both countries are currently associate members.
Foreign minister David Choquehuanca said at the time that in Brasilia “we will begin the dialogue process for full adherence”, although Bolivia insists in remaining a member of the Community of Andean Nations, CAN, together with Chile, Peru and Colombia. “We want to be a hinge between the two groups”, said the Bolivian official. Besides, strong farm and manufacturing lobbies have warned about the Brazilian and Argentine competition if Bolivia is absorbed by Mercosur.
The Mercosur round begins next Thursday, ahead of the Friday summit, with a meeting of Finance and Foreign Affairs with the purpose of defining “actions and recommendations”, reported on Sunday the Brazilian Foreign Ministry.
Another issue in the agenda of the summit is to prop more active business participation and for this a special forum has been organized parallel to the Mercosur two day talks and it is expected to be attended by industry leaders from Brazil and Argentina mainly.
Venezuela’s formal entry as full member was last July 31 at a special summit in Brasilia, which means the South American block now has a population of 270 million and huge reserves of cereals and oil seeds, minerals, power and oil.
The access of Venezuela has not been without controversy, since Paraguay was suspended and impeded from participating in the decision and according to the Mercosur charter new incorporations must be unanimous. The controversy arises from the fact that the Paraguayan Senate for years was against Venezuela in the block as long as Hugo Chavez was president, since he was considered ‘non democratic’.
To make things worse with Paraguay formally suspended, the country’s Senate effectively took a vote on the issue, which it hadn’t done until the moment because of the expected outcome and as forecasted overwhelmingly voted against incorporating Venezuela as a full member.
Paraguay has also protested the fact that it has been skipped from the chair, since Mercosur is advancing the calendar and for the next six months the responsibility falls on Uruguay.
Uruguayan president Jose Mujica when the controversy in June/July over the suspension of Paraguay and the decision to accept Venezuela as full member, said that sometimes “political reasons are more important than charters and rules”.