Paraguay president Horacio Cartes arrived Monday morning to Brazil for a round of talks with President Dilma Rousseff which includes political, economic, energy, trade and security issues, plus the full return of Paraguay to Mercosur, an intricate matter dating back to events of June 2012.
The Cartes delegation includes Finance minister German Rojas; Industry and trade minister Gustavo Leite; Itaipu hydroelectric dam advisor Leila Rachid and Foreign minister Eladio Loizada, and the president’s daughter acting as First Lady.
Paraguay is one of the founding members of Mercosur, but in June 2012 was suspended by the other members alleging a ‘congressional coup’ because of the removal of then president Fernando Lugo. However it was Congress through the impeachment process and an overwhelming vote, accepted by Lugo that decided the extreme measure.
But Mercosur not only suspended Paraguay until the next presidential election but also in the absence of Asuncion agreed the incorporation of Venezuela to the group, ignoring the fact that Paraguay did not support the decision. Furthermore they celebrated the incorporation by naming Venezuela president of the group for the second half of 2013.
In reaction to this decision, the Paraguayan Senate then formally voted the non acceptance of Venezuela to Mercosur. However last 15 August when the inauguration of Cartes, the other original three members believed that would mark the return to normality.
Quite to the contrary Paraguay demands respect for its democratic and legitimate decisions, international law and the Mercosur charter which established that all decisions must be unanimous and with all members attending.
Despite the good chemistry of Cartes with Argentina’s Cristina Fernandez, whom he visited in Buenos Aires, and with Brazil and Uruguay’s Jose Mujica, the Paraguayan approach has been one of bilateral meetings with the full return delayed until the legal situation with Venezuela can be overcome.
Paraguay argues that it never left Mercosur and in the meantime has also approached the Pacific Alliance where it now has an observer’s status.
“Presidents will review the main issues of the regional agenda with particular attention to Mercosur and will give continuity to dialogue on the wide bilateral agenda with emphasis on technical, frontier development, infrastructure and trade cooperation”, according to the Brazilian foreign ministry.
The release also mentions the ‘wide prospects’ to increase cooperation in health, security, agriculture, tourism, defence and ‘social technologies’ geared to poverty reduction programs. It also mentions the fact that bilateral trade reached 3.6 billion dollars in 2012, when Paraguayan exports to Brazil soared 38%.
Paraguayan foreign minister Eladio Loizaga who has been in Brazil for several days preparing the meetings said that the areas of major interest are increasing trade and security along border areas.
“Not only energy which is constantly updated but future undertakings in infrastructure and connectivity to ensure greater links with our neighbours but also with an outlet to the Pacific”, said the Paraguayan release recalling such infrastructure projects as a 500 KW transmission line to Asuncion and several bridges linking the two neighbouring countries.
President Cartes in early September made his first official overseas visit to Buenos Aires where he met Cristina Fernandez. He later travelled to Chile, to meet President Sebastián Piñera, now with Dilma Rousseff and later in October to Uruguay where he is scheduled to hold talks with President Jose Mujica.