Brazil Foreign Minister says Venezuela's accession to MERCOSUR was a coup

According to José Serra, Venezuela cannot take over the rotating

Published in 18/08/2016 - 10:41 By Heloisa Cristaldo reports from Agência Brasil - Brasília

Brasília - Entrevista com o ministro de estado das Relações Exteriores, José Serra e o deputado Luís Florido (Wilson Dias/Agência Brasil)

Foreign Minister José Serra said that Venezuela's entry into MERCOSUR was a “coup”.Wilson Dias/Agência Brasil

Foreign Minister José Serra said Wednesday (Aug. 17) that Venezuela's entry into MERCOSUR was a “coup” led by the governments then ruling Brazil and Argentina, and maintained Nicolás Maduro's country must not take over the rotating presidency of the bloc.

“Venezuela has failed to comply with MERCOSUR's requirements. The Venezuelan government gained membership of MERCOSUR through a coup, because new members must be approved by all existing ones and Paraguay objected. So the governments of Brazil and Argentina at the time led a move to suspend Paraguay,” the minister said in an interview at Itamaraty palace, the seat of Brazil's Foreign Ministry.

Paraguay was suspended after its President Fernando Lugo was removed and Federico Franco took office.

Serra thinks Venezuela is not qualified to chair MERCOSUR because it has failed to comply with certain requirements outlined in the internal rules of the bloc, including the so-called “democracy clause”. He says the country does not respect human rights and is under an authoritarian regime. “A country that has political prisoners can't be a democratic country,” he criticized. Violating the democratic clause can lead to sanctions up to and including expulsion from the bloc.

“Venezuela will not take over MERCOSUR, that's for sure. Now we need to find a solution for how we're going to take care of MERCOSUR until Argentina's President Macri takes over the reins in January,” the foreign minister said.

The deadlock over the pro tempore presidency began on July 29, when Uruguay step down from the presidency. MERCOSUR rules dictate that the presidency rotates among member countries in alphabetical order every six months, so Venezuela was the next in line. However, Brazil, Paraguay, and Argentina opposed the handover to Venezuela due to political differences with its Bolivarian government.

The rotating presidency should have been handed over during the MERCOSUR presidential summit, which was due to take place in the first half of July in Montevideo but was called off. Amid the crisis, Venezuela raised the MERCOSUR flag in Caracas and proclaimed itself the chair of the bloc despite not being recognized by a majority of the bloc's members.

In addition to an alternative solution to the presidency, Serra advocated restructuring MERCOSUR. “Original member countries [Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay, and Argentina] all agree. We have an agenda on that and we need to go ahead working on that.”

Misunderstanding with Uruguay

In another episode of MERCOSUR's crisis, Uruguay's Foreign Minister Rodolfo Novoa last week accused Brazil of trying to “buy a vote” from Uruguay to prevent Venezuela from occupying the chair of the bloc. The allegation prompted a response from the Brazilian government earlier this week, but yesterday Serra said there was just a “misunderstanding” on Uruguay's part.

“I got a call from Uruguay's Foreign Minister and it was all sorted out, so there are no more pending issues in our collaboration with Uruguay,” Serra said, declining to answer if Novoa had apologized to the Brazilian government.

Election in Venezuela

In the interview, Serra also advocated a referendum in Venezuela on whether to call a new election this year. Yesterday afternoon, he met with two of Nicolás Maduro's opponents—Deputy Luís Florido, president of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Sovereignty and Integration of the National Assembly of Venezuela, and Carlos Vecchio, political coordinator for the Popular Will (Voluntad Popular) party, who is in political exile, to discuss the recall referendum in Venezuela.

“We reaffirm our concern about this situation and eagerly wish a new recall referendum, which means simply a consultation with the population to find out whether or not the incumbent government should continue. It is a tool outlined in the Constitution, and the government has been delaying it, playing for time, seeking to put it off until next year. Next year, under the existing laws, President Maduro will be able to appoint a vice-president. Which means that even if he's defeated in the referendum, he will have one of his connections take over,” Serra pointed out.

If the referendum takes place by January 10, 2017, a new election may be held. “So what we have in Venezuela is an authoritarian, arbitrary, repressive government, and we need not go further if when we think of the situation the Venezuelan people are experiencing. Ninety-five percent of the medications are missing from drugstore shelves, there are cruel food shortages, factories and workplaces are shut down, and Venezuela is left aimless right now,” he criticized.

Vecchio said that a delegation from his country came to Brazil to ask for support for the referendum. He also said Venezuela is gearing up for a countrywide protest on September 1st to put pressure on the government to hold the recall referendum.

“It will be a powerful demonstration from the Venezuelan people. When the people of [Simón] Bolívar takes to the street, great things happen.”

Translated by Mayra Borges

Fonte: Brazil Foreign Minister says Venezuela's accession to MERCOSUR was a coup

Edition: Luana Lourenço / Nira Foster

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