Talking about the admission of Venezuela into Mercosur, the president of the Brazilian Senate Foreign Affairs and Defense committee, Eduardo Azeredo, commented, "Respect for democracy is a very important principle for those who are or want to become members of Mercosur."
"Venezuela's incorporation to Mercosur is going through a 'complex moment'; there's no problem with Venezuela, it's an important country which is going to contribute to make Mercosur stronger; the discussion is 'with or after (President Hugo) Chavez," said Senator Azeredo in an interview with Caracas' main daily El Universal.
"Mr Chavez is a 'complicating factor' with characteristics that do not allow us to separate country from his figure, he's a ruler with a very personal style," added the influential Brazilian senator.
Venezuela's request to join Mercosur dates back to a summit in mid 2006, when it was accepted by the leaders of the four founding members of the group, Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay. But so far only lawmakers from Argentina and Uruguay have ratified the initiative.
Earlier this month the Brazilian Senate returned to Venezuelan ambassador in Brasília, Julio Garcia Montoya, a letter he sent by fax criticizing congressional delay in ratifying the incorporation agreement of Venezuela as a full member of Mercosur.
Azeredo is not only a heavy weight Senator on his own but also a member of the main opposition party, Brazilian Social Democracy, PSDB. He said the letter was returned because it had "inappropriate" terminology plus the fact it had been understood that Ambassador Garcia Montoya was going to be part of the debate.
However in the letter the ambassador tried to justify his absence plus criticizing the Brazilian senators for "limiting the discussion (on Venezuela's incorporation to Mercosur) to the analysis of a set of interests which were particularly politically conditioned."
Azeredo said that President Hugo Chavez must learn "to respect the Brazilian Senate" and the discussions on the incorporation of Venezuela are "economic, not ideological," therefore debates are concentrated on the current Venezuelan reality and what the country represents for Mercosur.
Asked about the current political situation and claims that President Chavez is attacking the opposition and the press, Azeredo said "there's much fear because the (government) control of the press could weaken democracy...we know what is happening with Globosivion, that is why Brazil's position is cautious and fearful, and also concern us because it's a neighboring country."
He added that "we are aware of the economic strength of Mercosur in the world, as well as its political standing, so we don't want it to be used for personal or ideological projects; what we want is independence and good relations with other countries, be it the US, Europe, Russia or China."
The incorporation of Venezuela to Mercosur is "a complex issue" continued Azeredo, "if we take into account that the country is a net importer of much of what it consumes; it has had a strict money exchange rate control for the last six years, plus all the nationalizations that the government has undertaken recently."
But if Venezuela joins "we should have to work to make it the most competitive market of the region...it's a very important country that could sell many of its produce in better conditions."
Regarding the rule of the law for contracts and economic decisions which are essential for all partners of Mercosur, Senator Azeredo said he was "concerned" about the recent nationalizations, which anyhow "we respect."
"Those of us who are discussing this (incorporation) process are concerned about the inconsistency of Venezuela from a political point of view, the interference in the economy, nationalizations. We understand that nationalizations are a form of going back in time since public opinion must have a strong presence, although not necessarily in all sectors."
Finally he mentioned that the incorporation of Venezuela to Mercosur will take place sometime in September and guaranteed that the discussion "will remain balanced, democratic and watchful of Mr. Chavez."