Despite Misgivings Brazil Ready to Welcome Chavez into Mercosur

President Chavez Brazil's Senate leader and former president José Sarney said that the Mercosur incorporation of Venezuela will be "disturbing" for the trade block but admitted the Upper House would finally approve the admission protocols.

"I believe that the admission of Venezuela at this moment is a disturbing element for Mercosur which is undergoing a very difficult situation," said Senator Sarney recently re-elected to the presidency of the Upper House and a frequent critic of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

"I'm under the impression that if Chavez is admitted he will try to convert Mercosur into a political forum, and we can't transform Mercosur into a political forum," said the Senator who is a coalition ally of Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.

Mercosur presidents agreed the incorporation of Venezuela in July 2006 but the decision needed congressional approval, which was almost immediate from the legislative branches of Argentina and Uruguay.

At the beginning of 2007 Brazil sent the proposal to the Lower House to have Venezuela admitted as the fifth full member of the trade group that also includes Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay.

Brazilian opposition questioned the proposal and it took a full year to obtain the Lower House approval. However resistance is even stronger in the Senate since the opposition holds more benches and several Lula allies do not approve of Chavez.

Last February the Mercosur Committee voted favorably and now the issue is before the Foreign Affairs committee followed by the full House.

"Just watching movements, the feeling is that it will finally be approved," said Sarney who has a long congressional experience.

Sarney anticipated he would vote against Venezuela's incorporation but promised he would not use his institutional powers to block procedures.

"My position remains unchanged: I do not understand what is meant by "Bolivarian democracy," and any democracy with adjectives is suspicious," he said.

The Senator insists that the Venezuelan government suffers from "institutional shortcomings" and recalled that any member wishing to become a member of Mercosur must respect the "democratic clause," according to the business publication Valor.

Lula has supported the proposal to admit Venezuela to the Mercosur arguing that few governments in the region have faced elections and plebiscites as often as Venezuela.

However the truth is that one of the pet programs of President Chavez was a huge natural gas network extending from the rich fields in Maracaibo through the South American continent heartland to supply the power houses of São Paulo, Buenos Aires and Santiago.

With the recent discoveries of massive resources of oil and gas offshore Brazil, even at pre salt depths (5,000 to 7,000 meters), the country will not need to become Venezuelan energy dependent, a fearsome scenario for the Brazilian establishment and Armed Forces. Consequently thumbs down for the Chavez project, "now he can come in."

In related news the other Mercosur member which still has to vote the incorporation of Venezuela is Paraguay. The current ruling coalition mathematically has the necessary votes for the approval but the conservative wing of the government is not convinced, – as in Brazil -, of President Chavez' interpretation of democracy.

However if Brazil finally extends the green light admission, Paraguay will most surely follow.

Mercopress

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