Despite objections from Brazil and Paraguay, Uruguay next Saturday 30 July will transfer to Venezuela the rotating chair of Mercosur for the second half of the year, as indicated in the “group's rules and regulations”.
The announcement was not made official but Executive sources said that Uruguayan president Tabare Vazquez had instructed foreign minister Rodolfo Nin Novoa to comply with the alphabetical order Mercosur presidency transfer as originally planned.
The controversial decision will be implemented next Saturday in Montevideo at the convened Common Market Council, CMC, the Mercosur most important decision making body only second to the presidential summit, and which is made up of foreign and finance ministers of the five full members.
Rules don't mention a word about quorum in such a situation, so we're going ahead despite the position of some members, who reject handing the chair to Venezuela. The only facts in the rules are that the transfer must be done after a member has completed his six-month presidency and this must respect the alphabetical order.
Allegedly Brazil sent a written letter to Uruguay's foreign ministry indicating their representatives will not be attending next Saturday's CMC meeting, and the Paraguayan foreign minister Eladio Loizaga has advanced that they will also be absent, since they do not consider Venezuela a full democracy as Mercosur rules demand. Loizaga said the decision was confirmed after holding talks with president Horacio Cartes.
The fact that Paraguay and Brazil will not be present does not invalidate the transfer and the Uruguayan ministry is following the book and doing the right thing, said foreign ministry sources.
The only way the transfer can't take place is if Venezuela argues for some special reason that it does not want to accept the presidency. In that case the chair would have to go to Argentina, added the foreign ministry.
Paraguay also indicated that the transfer of the chair can only take place at the two annual presidential summits, as has happened in the last 25 years and not at a CMC meeting, there is no such thing as an 'automatic' transfer.
Loizaga added that Paraguay supports the OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro initiative to apply the democratic clause to Venezuela. If this advances Venezuela could be suspended from the multilateral group until basic democratic and human rights conditions are reinstated.
We don't want to get involved in Venezuelan domestic affairs but there are certain basic democratic values that have been absent in the country for too long with no prospects of change.
Paraguay and Brazil both favor having Uruguay remaining with the Mercosur chair for the second half of the year arguing, besides objections to the regime of president Nicolas Maduro, that the group and the EU are in the midst of crucial trade negotiations which have been steered by Montevideo. Besides, since Venezuela has yet to comply with all conditions to be a full member of Mercosur, it is not part of the current negotiations.
The other full member Argentina also faces a challenging situation, since minister Susana Malcorra is bidding for the UN Secretary General post and despite the significance of Brazilian support, Venezuela is also one of ten non permanent member of the UN Security Council.
Summing up Saturday's decision will only confirm Mercosur ever growing split and stagnation and pulling out from will be even harder, while Brazil and Argentina will probably find good excuses to circumvent consensus clauses referred to for example to trade agreements with third parties.