Reacting to diplomatic initiatives on the part of Argentina, Brazil, and Uruguay, the senate of Paraguay has decided to postpone their official resolution and decision on the recent admission of Venezuela as a full member of MERCOSUR, the South American trading bloc. This action, introduced on August 9 by Senator Miguel Gonzalez, has found support from the nine Senators representing the UNACE Party, as well as a majority of Colorado Party senators.
Senator Gonzalez has demonstrated cautiousness in his statements regarding the current implementation of Paraguay’s relations with fellow Latin American countries, especially those of the Southern Cone. Gonzalez supports Foreign Minister Jose Fernandez Estigarribia, who has refrained from taking further actions in relation to the efforts being made to present Paraguay’s case to the International Court of Justice regarding its suspension from MERCOSUR. So far, the MERCOSUR countries have refused to entertain Paraguay’s request for a hearing. Sen. Gonzalez has expressed concern that if Paraguay takes its case tp The Hague, it will cause greater frictions in diplomatic relations between Paraguay and neighboring countries.
On the other hand, Sen. Gonzalez has been an avid proponent of keeping Venezuela out of MERCOSUR. Until now the Paraguayan senator, in collaboration with the President of the Senate Jorge Oviedo Matto, has been successful in holding back the discussions and delay the final decision on the fate of Venezuela’s MERCOSUR full membership.
Venezuela’s admission to MERCOSUR would have been debated on the Paraguayan Congress on August 9, but according to Gonzales “there is a complicated jurisprudence situation: if the Senate votes against the international treaty which guarantees the incorporation of Venezuela into MERCOSUR, this decision cannot be appealed and Venezuela will never be a member of this regional block.”
It would be beneficial to await the results of the upcoming Venezuelan Presidential elections in October, or Paraguayan Senators may have to wait until the results of Presidential elections in Paraguay that are scheduled to take place in April, 2013.
The majority of 45 Paraguayan senators think that Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez does not respect democratic institutions and this is a crucial reason which adversely affects the accession of Venezuela into MERCOSUR. The Paraguayan Foreign Minister emphasized that this decision is taken solely by the Paraguayan Senate and Franco’s government has not been involved in this case. Foreign Minister Fernandez Estigarribia stated that from a legal point of view “Venezuela is not a full member of MERCOSUR because its incorporation was a political and not a legal decision, the official position of the Paraguayan senate on this matter is missing.”
On June 29th, the other three members of MERCOSUR, Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay took a decision to permit the admission of Venezuela at a time when Paraguay was suspended from the organization, following former President Fernando Lugo’s impeachment process, considered illegal by the three governments.
After Venezuela’s recent accession (without Paraguay’s blessing), MERCOSUR is slowly conforming to a shape similar to CELAC (The Community of Latin American and Caribbean States) - an organization founded and predominantly sponsored by President Chavez during the last five years. The only purpose of CELAC is to compete against the Organization of American States, which is the largest block of the Western Hemisphere and that includes Canada and United States. CELAC does not include Washington and Ottawa.
While CELAC is more of a political structure, MERCOSUR is more focused on regional trade policies, reduction of tariffs and international commercial policies. Very soon MERCOSUR will be portrayed as an extended arm of Venezuela and it will soak up the ideological and operational aspects of Chavez and its confidants. Chavez has allied his government with Russia and Iran, purchasing arms from the latter and engaging in diplomatic maneuvers with the latter.
On August 13, the Paraguayan Senate Committee on foreign relations had a meeting with Foreign Minister Fernandez Estigarribia, where it was discussed the status of Venezuela in MERCOSUR. Senator Miguel Carrizosa, Chairman of Senate Foreign Relations Committee, noted that the Paraguayan Congress will continue to improve its Parliamentarian diplomacy in full coordination with the Foreign Ministry in order to recover the status and reputation of Paraguay in international affairs. Sen. Carrizosa stated that current legislative actions, on Venezuela’s candidacy, are being postponed in accordance to the Congressional rules and Laws.
According to Carrizosa “The decision of the Paraguayan Senate in reference to Venezuela’s admission to MERCOSUR is not against Venezuela as a country, but against Chavez and his socialist [ideology] of XXI century which this congress does not support. Paraguayan legislative branch has been enraged with the intromission of Venezuelan Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro against [his] country”
Under the leadership of President Federico Franco, the Paraguayan government has established a new strategy to attract foreign investments and is slowly improving its image in the world stage. Paraguayan Senate is being very attentive toward the current meetings and report on Paraguay scheduled to be published by the OAS on August 20th. The admission of Venezuela in MERCOSUR was only made possible without the Paraguayan officials on the table and Chavez achieved his long time objective. Fortunately Paraguay is legally obliged to take a position on this matter and sooner or later it will have the final word on Venezuela’s fate to the MERCOSUR regional trade organization.
Spero columnist Peter Tase is a former Peace Corps volunteer who analyses Latin American and its commodities.