Fresh from an incident with Venezuela which delayed and displaced a Unasur meeting, the Uruguayan government is looking for closer relations with the conservative administration of Paraguay, putting the emphasis on regional integration but also in making Mercosur a more open and dynamic trade and cooperation block.
“Our purpose is to give a strong line of continuity to those issues that make to regional integration, and improve the foreign agenda of Mercosur and its many challenges” said Uruguayan ambassador in Asunción, Federico Perazza following a meeting with Paraguay's deputy foreign minister Rigoberto Gauto.
Perazza also recalled that next July Paraguay will be holding the Mercosur chair for six months and following that period it will be Uruguay's turn.
The recently empowered Uruguayan government of President Tabaré Vázquez through its foreign minister Nin Novoa has been critical of the Mercosur workings and has called for more sincerity, transparency, and a greater opening to third markets, including closer links with the Pacific Alliance (Chile, Peru, Colombia and Mexico). Precisely Uruguay and Paraguay hold observer status in the alliance, despite Brazil and Argentina, which are more protective of their domestic markets and industries.
Perazza also announced that he was organizing the visit of a delegation of Paraguayan officials from the government and private sector to Uruguay with the purpose of increasing port links, possible energy transfer and more consistent trade links.
Uruguay's strong approach to Paraguay and president Horacio Cartes, marks a difference from what happened in 2012 when president Fernando Lugo was removed from office following impeachment by the Paraguayan Senate, and Mercosur and Unasur suspended the country from the two blocks arguing the whole political conflict had been 'non democratic'.
At the time former president Jose Mujica stated an argument that still echoes in much of a surprised region, 'sometimes the political is more important than the juridical' to justify sanctions on land locked Paraguay, and the weakest of Mercosur members. Taking advantage of its absence the rest of the members, finally, after years of delay Mercosur voted for Venezuela to become a full member of the group. The decision had been stalled for years since the Paraguayan Senate did not believe in the democratic or libertarian credentials of Hugo Chavez and the Bolivarian revolution.
Finally new elections were held, conservative Cartes and the Colorado party were back in office and Paraguay gradually reinstated to its full memberships in Mercosur and Unasur. But for Paraguay, as well as Uruguay, the same problems remain, Brazil and Argentina privilege their own markets and interests, have downgraded Mercosur's objectives and charter, and both junior members are openly committed for the group to reach a much postponed trade and cooperation agreement with the European Union.
This week also the administration of president Tabare Vazquez clashed with Maduro over a suggestion that Vice/president Raul Sendic was a 'coward', because in an interview the Uruguayan official said that 'we have no evidence of international meddling in Venezuela's home affairs'. As could be expected this infuriated Maduro and he made the elliptical reference to how 'cowards' act. The Uruguayan foreign office immediately reacted saying it could not tolerate such lack of respect and summoned the Venezuelan ambassador.
As a consequence of the incident, the Unasur foreign ministers' meeting scheduled for this Thursday and which was to be held in Montevideo, since Uruguay holds the chair of the group, was postponed to Saturday and the meeting place to Quito, to the permanent seat of Unasur. The meeting was also lowered one step to a gathering of deputy ministers.
However despite the official position of the new Vazquez administration, ex president Mujica insisted that he was sure 'the US was behind the political meddling in Venezuela, who else could it be, they have too many interests', clearly in line with the Venezuela/Cuba/Ecuador position.
'The real news would be that the Americans are not involved in Venezuela's current situation' underlined Mujica. 'My solidarity with Venezuela and all the continent countries that support the elected government of Venezuela'.