At a summit marked by strong differences between Argentina and Venezuela, Mercosur signed a statement in defense of the unrestricted support of human rights. Earlier in the day there was a serious exchange between Argentine president Mauricio Macri who demanded all political prisoners in Venezuela be set free, and president Nicolas Maduro foreign minister who replied that Macri was 'meddling' in Venezuela's affairs and was applying a 'double standard' on the issue.
I want here, today, to specifically demand before the heads of state from Mercousr member countries, the soon liberation of all political prisoners in Venezuela, because members of Mercosur cannot abide political persecution for ideological reasons o for thinking differently, stated Macri in his speech on Monday, which also broke away from the usual arid politeness among its members.
Macri added that his administration was happy to see the government of Venezuela accepted all the results from the recent legislative elections, in which the opposition won, and at the same times asked for prudence from the political opposition following the election.
However he emphasized that his vision of democracy is not only in the ballots, democracy is a way of life, an pact to live together.
The Argentine president statements were rebuked by foreign minister Delcy Rodriguez, who attended in representation of Maduro, and accused Macri of meddling in Venezuelan home affairs.
You are meddling with Venezuela's domestic affairs, said Rodríguez who also accused Macri of defending and endorsing this political violence, while showing pictures of armed people, which, she said, were taken during the so called peaceful marches of 2014.
With the pictures in her hands, Rodriguez challenged Macri: your are defending this person, and this has been done specifically by you, you are defending this type of violent demonstrations, this kind of political violence.
And if we are to talk about human rights, let's be sincere, we're in the first line for this debate, because Venezuela is a model country when it comes to human rights and there is no other country in the world with a social network in support of the needy and those who for decades have seen their rights abused.
Macri was the only Mercosur leader to bring up the issue of political prisoners in Venezuela. Other presidents congratulated Venezuela for the recent legislative election and the fact that the government had accepted the result, an overwhelming victory of the opposition.
Anyhow Macri's stance did not come as a surprise, since for weeks the Argentine president had anticipated that at the Mercosur summit he would demand the democratic clause be applied to Venezuela. Although following the 6 December election and the government's acceptance of the result, Argentine foreign minister Susana Malcorra said there would be no attempt to enforce the clause.
Other attendants of the summit besides Macri and Rodriguez, included the host, Paraguay president Horacio Cartes, Brazil's Dilma Rousseff and Uruguay's Tabaré Vázquez. Also present was Evo Morales from Bolivia, a country in the process of integration to Mercosur, Michelle Bachelet from Chile, associate member of the group, and Guyana's PM Moses Veerasammy Nagamootoo, another associate member.
All the leaders signed a declaration reiterating the importance of the defense and strong thrust to the values and full compliance of democratic institutions and the protection, promotion and unrestricted respect for human rights.
The text adds that the commitment is necessary to consolidate democratic processes, an essential condition for any integration. The declaration also praises the fact that it has been ten years since the Asuncion Commitment Protocol for the promotion and protection of human rights in Mercosur.
Furthermore, the full compliance of democratic institutions, respect for human rights and fundamental liberties, indispensable pillars for the development and integration process of the region.
Other issues in the agenda of the summit referred to the ongoing negotiations between Mercosur and the European Union to establish a free trade agreement, but apparently it was not mentioned in the final declaration.
Paraguay which hosted the summit was hopeful that in its six-month presidency a date could have been announced for the exchange of tariff reduction proposals between Mercosur and EU, in advance of the trade agreement.
Mercosur is ready to begin the proposals exchange process, said Cartes and his foreign minister Eladio Loizaga, but they also admitted that the task will be now Uruguay's responsibility which holds the rotating chair for the next six months and anticipated that this would be the main objective of its mandate.