Efforts by right-wing governments to oust Venezuela from Mercosur were met by a fierce backlash, and Paraguayan Foreign Minister Eladio Loizaga appears to be backtracking from earlier assertions that Venezuela had been suspended, saying Monday that the country was under “cessation” instead.
Loizaga's comments come on the heels of an earlier announcement by Uruguayan President Tabare Vazquez that Venezuela's ouster from Mercosur was “not irreversible.”
In an interview with EFE, Loizaga said Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay had decided upon “a cessation, not a suspension” and that Venezuela could become a member state again if it complied with the requirements outlined by Mercosur.
"To the extent that Venezuela fulfills the requirements, it will be reviewed again and it will be the member states that will set a new procedure,” said Loizaga.
Venezuelan Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez, however, maintains that her country has actually gone further in meeting the membership requirements than the other member states now trying to oust Venezuela.
In a press conference last week, Rodriguez said that in the four years since Venezuela joined the bloc, the country has complied with 95 percent of the norms set out by Mercosur for membership, whereas the other member states have only complied with 75 percent of the norms.
Loizaga claimed that Venezuela has failed to specifically abide by the economic complementation agreement of Mercosur and the Asunsion Protocol on Human Rights.
A letter issued to Venezuela last Friday informing the country of the bloc's position made no specific mention of what requirements the country had allegedly failed to fulfill.
Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay — all governed by right-wing administrations — have spearheaded a campaign to suspend Venezuela, with Uruguay playing a mediating role.
The presidents of both Argentina and Paraguay have publicly mused about ousting Venezuela from Mercosur, suggesting that the efforts to suspend Venezuela are politically driven and not actually based on the country's alleged lack of compliance with the groups norms.
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, which both had left-wing governments allied with former Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez at the time.
Under left-wing leadership, the bloc focused on promoting regional integration, but the right-wing governments elected in recent years have now tried to once again reorient the bloc toward free trade. Critics accuse the conservative forces within the bloc of using Venezuela’s proposed suspension as a maneuver to steer the alliance down a neoliberal path.
Lending credibility to the argument, Loizaga said negotiations for a trade deal between Mercosur and the European Union were now proceeding favorably, adding that the bloc is also exploring a closer relationship with the Pacific Alliance, which is known to have a neoliberal economic orientation.
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