Thursday, Nov. 12
BRASILIA, Brazil – The Brazilian senate has postponed a definitive vote on full Venezuelan membership in the Southern Common Market (Mercosur) for at least a week. The decision was announced on Nov. 10 by opposition senator José Agripino Maia, who opposes Venezuelan entry into the commercial bloc currently composed of Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay.
The announcement forms the first political consequence of recent statements by Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, who called on the Bolivarian Armed Forces to “prepare for war,” in reference to the recent cooperation agreement signed between the United States and Colombia for the joint use of Colombian military bases to fight drug trafficking.
Senator and opposition Brazilian Social Democrat Party leader Arthur Virgilio told O Globo that he had suggested his colleagues use the additional time to “reflect on the words of Colonel Chávez, which are shocking for any democrat,” and which caused generalized unease in the region.
In Asunción, Paraguayan Foreign Minister Héctor Lacognata told La Nación that President Fernando Lugo’s government will reevaluate its stance with respect to the Caribbean country’s Mercosur membership. “There is a verbal offensive, which is not producing the best of situations. The issue is under constant analysis,” said the minister.
Whilst the Argentinian and Uruguayan congresses have approved Venezuelan membership, reported AFP, those of Brazil and Paraguay, both dominated by the opposition, have yet to do so.
The president of the house, former president José Sarney, who, recalled EFE, is opposed to the idea, along with the Brazilian senate was set to hold a vote on Venezuelan joining the bloc on Nov. 9.
In an attempt to play down the impact of his statements, the Venezuelan leader told Clarín, “Now everyone is accusing me of inciting war. I called on my people and soldiers to be more prepared to defend this country from the threat posed by the installation of seven (U.S.) military bases right here in Colombia.”
Colombian Foreign Minister Jaime Bermúdez responded by saying to EFE that Venezuela “has the option of dialog,” and reiterating that President Álvaro Uribe’s government will report Chávez’s statements to international bodies.