Paraguay called for practical sense from its Mercosur partners Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay to try and overcome the current impasse which could lead to a rift if Venezuela occupies the chair of the group at this week’s summit in Montevideo. Paraguay does not recognize Venezuela’s full membership because it was decided in its absence.
“We believe that Mercosur must adopt a practical and sensible attitude to re-establish what the group’s charter and the rule of the law indicates”, said Foreign minister Jose Felix Fernandez in direct reference to the coming summit on 12 July when the latest incorporation to the group, Venezuela is expected to hold the chair for the next six months.
“We believe that for example the proposals set out by president-elect (Horacio Cartes) could be a way out to the situation”, added the Paraguayan official. Cartes has suggested the summit votes a recess until next August to work out an understanding for the impasse, because “if Venezuela takes the chair Paraguay is not interested in returning to Mercosur”.
Paraguay a year ago was suspended from Mercosur when Fernando Lugo, following impeachment by the Senate was removed from office and replaced by Federico Franco, according to the country’s constitution. However Mercosur full members Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay described the move as a ‘congressional coup’ and suspended landlocked and the group’s weakest member until fresh democratic elections were held.
Following the suspension, Mercosur in a special summit in Brazil decided the incorporation as full member of Venezuela, originally requested in 2006, but pending because of the refusal from the Paraguayan Senate to approve it, as long as deceased president Hugo Chavez was in office since he was considered ‘undemocratic’ and in abuse of office for limiting opposition and media activities.
Last April Paraguay held presidential election, recognized as democratic and legitimate even by Mercosur and Unasur, with Horacio Cartes president-elect scheduled to take office in August. On his election Cartes was also congratulated by the presidents of Argentina and Uruguay.
In his first statements Cartes said he was very much interested in normalizing relations with Mercosur, but first was the dignity of Paraguay, the rule of the law and the group’s charter, since all decisions, particularly those referred to new incorporations must be unanimous and with the participation of all the group’s full members.
This was not the case with Venezuela, a situation which Uruguayan president Jose Mujica justified at the time saying that ‘sometimes the political comes ahead of the institutional’.
President-elect Cartes has proposed that the Mercosur summit recess be extended until August 15 when he takes office, and in the meantime the new Paraguayan congress will consider the incorporation of Venezuela as full member repealing a previous bill denying such an option which was approved in the heat of the conflict when Paraguay was suspended from Mercosur in June 2012.
Likewise as a gesture towards Paraguay and its incoming government, Mercosur members will then extend the 2013 second half pro tempore chair to Paraguay. In the meantime the Paraguayan senate is expected to vote Venezuela’s incorporation and at the August inauguration ceremony the four presidents formalize the new situation.
“The government of President Franco fully supports president-elect Cartes initiative, which is a matter of dignity for Paraguay, for Mercosur institutions and for the international standing of our regional group”, said Foreign minister Fernandez, who reiterated that “if Venezuela holds the Mercosur chair, Paraguay is not interested in returning to Mercosur”.
Although Mercosur and Unasur suspended Paraguay alleging the ‘illegitimate’ removal of Lugo, the Organization of American States did not support that position and the European Union backed Paraguay to the extent of saying that no further trade and cooperation discussions with Mercosur will take place until the full reestablishment of the country to the group, and Mercosur institutions.
The EU as well as Mexico, United States and Canada, among others stated that the removal of Lugo and his replacement by Vice-president Franco was done according to the Paraguayan constitution and thus legitimate.