Mercosur “has not advanced sufficiently to promote symmetries” said Paraguayan president Fernando Lugo on Thursday during a ceremony at the Executive palace to commemorate the 18th anniversary of the signing of the South American customs union made up of Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay and Paraguay.
Lugo not only complained about symmetries but also claimed that “there are growing pressures to back step the integration process”, although he didn’t give any further details besides adding that “it’s the small countries that are feeling the pressure”.
Mercosur which started in Asunción, Paraguay in 1991, besides the four full partners has associate members Chile and Bolivia, plus Venezuela which is in the process of acceptance as a full member since 2006.
Argentine and Uruguayan legislatives have approved Venezuela’s incorporation protocol (in 2007), but Brazil and Paraguay are still pending, since some members of both Senates “don’t understand how Venezuelan democracy and governance works”.
While Argentina and Brazil are Mercosur senior members and have a “strategic alliance”, junior members Uruguay and Paraguay complain bitterly about how they are treated and left out of the decision making process.
Furthermore a special fund of 100 million US dollars for infrastructure investments, specifically created to help the two junior members, has yet to become operational.
“The social, human and cultural dimensions of Mercosur have been relegated. That is why I am insisting in a renewed dialogue with presidents from the region. What is important is not precisely what to change, but rather how to change it”, said Lugo.
He added that Mercosur members must admit “we all face difficulties and we need to promote dialogue. Crisis is uniting us again but the question is: why during all these years have we not been able to find alternatives to establish commitment levels to comply with the agreements signed?”
“We must find a common identity which expresses the integration aspiration and hopes of our peoples”, he emphasized.
President Lugo is expected Friday in Montevideo, Uruguay for another Mercosur anniversary ceremony and on Saturday will be supporting the national team playing for the South Africa 2010 qualifier against Uruguay.
On Sunday the Paraguayan leader travels to Qatar for a meeting of Arab and South American leaders.