President-elect Horacio Cartes will not make any comments on the ongoing dispute of Paraguay with Mercosur until after the group’s summit in Uruguay next Friday, when official decisions on the subject are expected to be made public. However for both sides any decision will most probably be challenging and ratify that Mercosur has become a political group far from its original trade and investment purposes.
“We can’t interpret news and make comments on interpretations; no comments until we have something official”, said Cartes on Wednesday in reference to Paraguay’s strong objection to have Venezuela occupy Mercosur rotating chair as it has been anticipated by the current holder and host of the summit, Uruguay.
Cartes added that ‘following the summit, we’ll make a statement”.
Paraguay is currently suspended from Mercosur, a decision taken in June last year by Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay reacting to the impeachment and removal of Fernando Lugo from office, which the three full members interpreted as a “congressional coup”.
Following on the suspension, the three members in a special summit admitted the incorporation of Venezuela as full member of Mercosur which was pending since 2006, because of objections from the Paraguayan Senate.
The decision was considered illegal by Paraguay since such initiatives according to the group’s charter must be unanimous and with all members attending, which did not happen.
Paraguay has stated that after complying with free transparent democratic presidential elections (with Horacio Cartes the winner) the country must be allowed back in and the Venezuelan decision reversed. If not Paraguay is not interested in returning to Mercosur.
However the current and incoming Paraguayan administrations have also said they don’t want to abandon Mercosur, but demand respect for Paraguay’s dignity and compliance with international law, rule of the law and the country’s institutions, which the group has ‘ignored’.
President elect Cartes has proposed the coming summit votes a recess until August 15 when he takes office. At the inauguration ceremony Paraguay is given the group’s chair in a welcome gesture, and in the concomitant month the new Paraguayan Senate discusses the incorporation of Venezuela as full member. But Uruguayan Foreign minister Luis Almagro, with the support from Brazil, considers the situation irreversible and said Venezuela will be the next holder of Mercosur chair since Paraguay remains ‘suspended’.
The situation nevertheless experienced a further surprise when Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro said that despite ‘political differences’ with Cartes, he is determined that all efforts from Venezuela, “as chair of Mercosur, will be directed to facilitate the institutional process that enables the active reincorporation of Paraguay”
In this new scenario the foreign policy advisors of Cartes anticipate three possible options at the coming summit in Montevideo on Friday: Venezuela effectively is given the presidency of Mercosur and in a special gesture hands it to Paraguay; that the presidency is given directly to Paraguay or straight and forward to Maduro which will hold it for the next six months.
But any of the three options present serious legal problems for Paraguay. In the first case Paraguay would be obliged to assume the presidency but also accept Venezuela, which means ignoring a bill voted in July 2012 by the Paraguayan Senate explicitly rejecting such incorporation. The second option presents the same legal obstacles because of the negative vote from the Senate. It could also happen that Venezuela says it is willing to step down from the Mercosur presidency as long as Paraguay accepts the incorporation.
Whatever works out on Friday in Montevideo on the dispute, it is hard to see how the rift can be reversed particularly for an incoming president or for a Mercosur notoriously weakened by internal dissent and prevalence of ideology that questions its international standing and reliability.