Venezuela’s Chances in Mercosur Dim After Chavez Called Quasi-Dictator in Brazil Senate

Hugo Chavez Chances of Venezuela ever joining the Mercosur received a full blow this week when the Brazilian senate Foreign Relations committee rapporteur said the hopeful member-country is ruled by an "almost dictatorial" president Hugo Chavez

"Chavez rule is almost dictatorial, from the moment the Congress is totally submissive to his interests," said Senator Tasso Jereissati from the opposition Social Democrat party, in anticipation of the vote in the committee which is scheduled for the coming week.

Jereissati's report was highly critical even when until now he had been anticipated as a positive vote for Venezuela's incorporation. His arguments were that Venezuela as South America's third largest economy would be a boost for "a block extending from the Caribbean to Tierra del Fuego" and with 250 million people and 76% of the South American GDP.

"But economic arguments have been defeated by political authoritarian reality," he confessed. "The personality and actions of President Chavez, which initially were considered an issue of minor relevance, have ended as a major challenge."

More over the argument that rulers are transitory and countries permanent, which helps the Venezuela case, has been overwhelmed by "a forceful dismantling process of democratic freedoms with the purpose of perpetuating the president in office, militarization of the country, promotion of a political/ideological regional expansionist project with constant provocative interventions in internal affairs of other countries."

"Chavez' Venezuela is an instrument of division and disintegration for South America," underlined Jereissati.

Although admitting Chavez has been democratically elected, Senator Jereissati insists that the political reforms promoted by the Venezuelan government "privilege Chavez candidates" and the elected members of the opposition are "virtually impeded from taking office or ruling."

Venezuela adhered to Mercosur in 2006, but its incorporation approved by the legislative branches of Argentina and Uruguay is pending a similar vote from the Brazilian Senate and the Paraguayan congress, where the matter was recently shelved by the Executive fearing a negative outcome.

In Brazil the vote was blocked in 2007 following Chavez claims that Brazilian Senators were "lap pets of the United States imperialism and only represented the interests of the local oligarchy." Since then opposition Senators have been highly critical of Chavez and his "authoritarian practices."

Even the president of the Senate, José Sarney, a crucial ally of Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva is critical of Chavez although he promised that in the next vote he would not interfere with the will of the executive.

However in spite of the strong opposition the Lula administration is confident it has the sufficient votes in the Committee and in the full house to have the Mercosur Venezuelan incorporation treaty approved, as happened in the Lower House last December.

But if the proposal fails to be passed in the Foreign Affairs committee it will have to be definitively shelved. Besides Brazil is preparing for an electoral year so the forecast of the vote could be volatile, according to Brazilian analysts.



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