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Paraguayan leader calls Senate to vote Venezuela’s incorporation to Mercosur

Sunday, December 5th 2010 - 23:35 UTC
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President Fernando Lugo: “Chavez is not Venezuela” President Fernando Lugo: “Chavez is not Venezuela”

President Fernando Lugo called on the Paraguayan political establishment “not to identify Venezuela with President Hugo Chavez” and reiterated support from lawmakers to vote for the incorporation of Venezuela as a full member of Mercosur.

“Painfully this issue has become highly political and Venezuela has been identified with (president) Chavez”, said Lugo who was interviewed in Mar del Plata by the Argentine daily Tiempo Argentino.

“I am quite simple in my reflections: I would like to tell the political system and lawmakers in Paraguay: how can it be possible that three Mercosur countries (Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay) have accepted Venezuela as a full member of Mercosur and we haven’t” said Lugo.

“Is it possible that those countries are right and we are wrong? Or is it that they are wrong and we are not?” asked the Paraguayan president.

Lugo said that “Chavez is not Venezuela, Chavez is a president and tomorrow might not be any longer. However Venezuela will continue to exist and will continue insisting in its incorporation to Mercosur, which will not depend on us. I think it is a mistake to identify a person with a country”

The Paraguayan government recently surprised Congress by sending the request for Venezuela’s incorporation to Mercosur, after having withdrawn the petition last August when it was unable to muster the necessary votes.

However last December first the leaders of the Liberal party, the main group of the coalition that enabled Lugo become president and which was divided on the Venezuelan issue announced it would support the initiative.

Political analysts and the press in Asunción that the announcement was part of a political understanding reached by the administration of president Lugo with the opposition which includes posts in several branches, Supreme Court, Comptroller’s Office, the Attorney General, embassies, which have begun to be implemented.

However there was also speculation about a mysterious “economic incentive” from the government of President Chavez so that the Paraguayan Executive can have the necessary votes in the Senate, 23 out of 45. Congress since the ruling coalition that supported president Lugo atomized is under control of the opposition.

When the news was leaked to the press, (6 million US dollars: 4 for the Liberals and 2 for a dissident group from the main opposition party) Lino Oviedo, a former general that leads the Unace dissidents supposedly backed off from the deal. However this is not considered definitive given some of the workings of Paraguayan politics and the background of the Unace leader who spent several years in jail for an attempted coup.

This second attempt by President Lugo was supposed to be ready on time for the Mercosur summit December 17 in Foz de Iguazu when Brazil hands Paraguay the rotating chair.

The Paraguayan Senate still has two ordinary sessions before recess and the Foreign Affairs committee is expected to consider the issue this coming week.

Paraguay remains as the only country which has to approve the incorporation of Venezuela as a full member of Mercosur. The Venezuela request dates from 2006 and was quickly approved by lawmakers from Argentina and Uruguay.

In Brazil president Lula da Silva had a long battle to convince the Senate and even some of his own party members but finally managed the objectives at the end of 2009.

Discarding arguments about President Chavez authoritarian style and his persecution of opponents and the non official press, Lula da Silva said it was better “to have him inside than outside Mercosur”, plus the fact that Brazilian corporations managed a long list of contracts worth several billions US dollars.

Categories: Politics, Mercosur.

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