The right-wing governments of Paraguay, Argentina, and Brazil issued a letter Friday claiming that Venezuela had been suspended from the Mercosur trading bloc, but Venezuelan Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez said the decision was “absolutely null” as the effort to oust Venezuela is not based on the bloc's internal regulations.
Rodriguez said the foreign ministers of these three countries, which she called "the Triple Alliance," were trying to stage a “coup inside Mercosur” by trying to remove Venezuela from the bloc based on spurious accusations. The governments of the Triple Alliance claim that Venezuela is being ousted from Mercosur for failing to fulfill its membership requirements.
"Venezuela will continue to hold its legitimate presidency and will participate with a voice and vote in all meetings as a member state," said Rodriguez.
Rodriguez noted that in the four years since Venezuela joined the bloc, the country had complied with 95 percent of the norms set out by Mercosur for membership – whereas the other member states had only complied with 75 percent of the norms.
"We call on the people of MERCOSUR to not let them take away your integration mechanisms, which are being kidnapped but intolerant bureaucrats."
Meanwhile, President Nicolas Maduro said Friday afternoon during a televised address from Caracas that this was "an international aggression against Venezuela."
An Argentine government source told Reuters on Thursday that the decision to formally oust Venezuela would occur at a December 14 meeting of Mercosur foreign ministers, but Rodriguez said the meeting would not have any legal standing.
The effort to oust Venezuela from Mercosur has been largely led by Paraguay's right-wing government and later backed by the right-wing Michel Temer government in Brazil, itself in power due to a parliamentary coup that ousted democratically-elected former President Dilma Rousseff.
Argentine President Mauricio Macri has repeatedly brought up his wish to see Venezuela ousted from Mercosur due to alleged human rights abuses. However, the letter sent to Venezuela from Buenos Aires made no mention of this, saying only that Venezuela had not fulfilled its membership requirements by an arbitrary deadline set by the bloc.
Mercosur had issued an ultimatum to Venezuela in September saying it must fulfill “its obligations” by Dec. 1 or face suspension from the organization after accusing the country of "not incorporating essential Mercosur rules into their national legislation."
Venezuela entered the bloc in 2012. As home to some of the world's largest oil reserves, it was seen then as a key trade partner by regional heavyweights Brazil and Argentina, both of whom had left-wing governments allied with former Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.
Under leftist leadership, Mercosur sought to promote regional integration, but the right-wing governments in the bloc have tried to once again reorient the bloc toward neoliberalism and free trade.
Business leaders in Brazil also appear to be pressuring their government to oust Venezuela.
“Brazil needs to be part of global trade, and we can't wait any longer,” Roberto Ticoulat, head of the Brazilian Council of Commercial Exporters and Importers, told Reuters.