Brazil may help block Venezuela from taking the rotating presidency of the Mercosur trade group this month, a senior Brazilian official said on Thursday, in a bid to prevent Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro from strengthening his power.
The move has yet to be decided and must first be discussed with other members of Mercosur, the source, who is an aide to Brazil’s interim President Michel Temer, told Reuters. Temer’s office denied that there are any ongoing moves to suspend Venezuela from the Mercosur presidency.
Under suspended President Dilma Rousseff and her predecessor Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, Brazil gave strong, although recently quiet, support to Venezuela’s former President Hugo Chavez and his successor Maduro, who took over when Chavez died in 2013.
The possible move against Venezuela would further pivot Brazil’s foreign policy to the right under Temer.
Brazilian Foreign Minister Jose Serra wants to focus the country’s external policy more on trade with the United States and the European Union and less on taking what he called ideological stances driven by Rousseff’s leftist Workers Party.
Serra also wants to see Brazil freed from the Mercosur rule banning members from signing bilateral trade deals unless all members agree. That rule stands in the way of the Temer government’s effort to open up Brazil’s economy, one of the most closed in Latin America because of high tariffs and a lack of trade agreements.
There are two ways Brazil could try to block Venezuela from taking over the Mercosur presidency, said the presidential aide, who requested anonymity because plans were preliminary.
Brazil could work to cancel or delay the meeting this month, which would temporarily keep Uruguay at the head of the trade bloc. Or it could try to win the votes of other members to suspend Venezuela from Mercosur.
That would require invoking the Ushuaia Protocol, which provides for the suspension of a member country if there is a breakdown in democratic order.
Venezuela’s critics say that is clearly happening as Maduro has threatened to suspend the National Assembly as the opposition calls for a recall referendum on his presidency.
Paraguay last week asked for an emergency Mercosur meeting, scheduled for next week, to discuss the political situation in Venezuela and consider a possible suspension.
Mercosur or Mercosul (Spanish: Mercado Común del Sur, Portuguese: Mercado Comum do Sul, Guarani: Ñemby Ñemuha, Southern Common Market) is a sub-regional bloc. Its full members are Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguayand Venezuela.
Its associate countries are Bolivia, Chile, Peru, Colombia, Ecuador and Suriname. Observer countries are New Zealandand Mexico.
Its purpose is to promote free trade and the fluid movement of goods, people, and currency. It is now a full customs union and a trading bloc. Mercosur and the Andean Community of Nations are customs unions that are components of a continuing process of South American integration connected to the Union of South American Nations.