The opposition in the Brazilian Congress once again delayed on Wednesday, February 4, the consideration of Venezuela's Mercosur incorporation protocol, in spite of strong appeals from the ruling coalition of the president of Brazil, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.
A member of the opposition requested more time to consider the issue thus blocking Wednesday's vote by a Mercosur special commission, which if eventually is approved will then begin the Senate process, commission and full house votes.
Once out of the Senate the bill approving the incorporation protocol will be promulgated by President Lula, a staunch supporter of Venezuela joining Mercosur. Brazilian public work contractors, exporters and businesses in general are increasingly targeting Venezuela as a very lucrative market.
The ruling coalition leader, Deputy Florisvaldo Fier, underlined before the commission the importance of Venezuela's incorporation for Mercosur. Brazil's Lower House approved the protocol last December.
"Mercosur would transform into a trade space, full of opportunities with over 250 million people and an area of 12.7 million square kilometers, becoming one of the world's leading suppliers of food, energy and manufactured goods," insisted Deputy Fier.
However this week the Brazilian Senate named new leaders for the 2009/2011 period and nominated José Sarney to preside, who as Brazilian president (1985/1990) was one of the promoters of Mercosur but is known to be a strong opponent of Hugo Chavez' Venezuela.
The ruling coalition fears Mr. Sarney from his position could stall consideration of the protocol but he has strongly denied the allegations.
"I will not delay the discussion and consideration of any project," which includes the Venezuela incorporation protocol he said on Monday when asked specifically about the issue.
The presidents of Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay signed the incorporation of Venezuela to Mercosur on July 2006, but since then only Argentina and Uruguay's legislatives have approved the initiative.
Besides Brazil, the issue is still under consideration by the Paraguayan congress.
Sarney vehemently rejected claims he was intent in further delaying approval for Venezuela's incorporation to Mercosur.
"I'm not going to accelerate or delay any issue. All documents and bills will have to comply with all Senate procedures," said Sarney when asked about a vote on Venezuela's incorporation to the South American trade block which has been delayed for months.
Jose Sarney, a former Brazilian president, elected to preside over the Senate last Monday has been repeatedly accused by the opposition of being the main impediment for Venezuela's entry into Mercosur.
Brazilian president Lula da Silva has promised his Mercosur partners that Venezuela would be formally incorporated to the group during the first quarter of this year.
Brazilian senators and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez had a serious confrontation when the charismatic populist leader accused the members of the Upper house of acting as "puppets" of the country's oligarchy and in accordance with the capital of the "evil empire" in reference to the administration of President George Bush and the US.
But in spite of the offense and Chavez tepid apologies, following Lula's intervention, the bill remained stalled in the Brazilian senate.
However Brazilian contractors and business leaders have lobbied strongly for the incorporation of Venezuela to Mercosur, although the political establishment feels a bit uneasy with Chavez radical stances in several issues.
"But one thing is Chavez with the barrel of oil at US$ 140 US and another with oil at US$ 40, said Brazilian Senate sources" quoted in Brazilian capital Brasília's media.