Uruguay's President Luis Lacalle Pou Monday stood by the words he said during Friday's virtual Mercosur Summit which led to a rife with his Argentina counterpart Alberto Fernández.
“We have a vocation for the regional integration of Mercosur. We have a vocation for Mercosur to be a springboard and not a corset or a burden,” insisted Lacalle as he spoke to the press after receiving the first dose of the Coronavac anti-covid-19 vaccine.
“There is no one against the other, on the contrary, it is the good of all. If anyone believes that it is not for their good, let them loosen the cord a little, let Mercosur become more flexible, Lacalle said.
During this past weekend, Fernández had said in a TV interview that Lacalle Pou had a poorly educated speech during the videoconference.”
Fernández said he thought Lacalle had lost his temper “it seems to me very unkind that he said that being in Mercosur was [like] carrying a burden.”
In any case, Lacalle is determined to push for more flexibility on the part of Mercosur, which, if not granted, the world would “run over” the regional bloc.
Sources from Lacalle's inner circle quoted in an article carried by the Buenos Aires daily Clarín, reported that the Uruguayan president was heard saying that “the rest is part of the political paraphernalia that does not concern me because it does not interest me,” after instructing his aides to maintain the present course of action.
Mercosur has not been in such a crisis since the pulp mills crisis involving then Presidents Néstor Kirchner of Argentina and Uruguay's Tabaré Vázquez.
Fernández pointed out that in essence what Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro called for during Friday's meeting was the same as what Lacalle was seeking, but the Brazilian leader had been “very careful with his words.
Look at how the world advanced in agreements on all sides and we continue not to advance, Lacalle Pou was quoted as telling his aides. “We continue to pay tariffs and compete against Australia, New Zealand with our products, which are the same as theirs, but the difference is that they do not pay tariffs and we do,” as his team agreed that the future of Mercosur should not be an Uruguayan issue but everyone's.
Unofficial sources in Brasilia admitted Lacalle's intentions were no secret since his administration and Bolsonaro's had exchanged their views on the matter – to allow for Mercosur members to avoid the rule that bans individual foreign trade negotiations with any third bloc or country.
A meeting among Mercosur foreign ministers has been convened for April 22 at the request of Buenos Aires to see how relations will go on in the aftermath of the incident between the two leaders.
Meanwhile, former Uruguayan President José “Pepe” Mujica addressed the argument: “You have to be careful with circumstantial fever,” he said as he called for rationality to prevail instead of “pouring more fuel onto the bonfire ... because “the things at stake are too important”.
Mujica also recalled that his country, without noise, without loud speeches and patiently negotiating, signed a Free Trade Agreement with Mexico in July 2004, which went a bit off the doctrines” imposed by the regional bloc.