Brazil and Venezuela Join Forces to Condemn Honduran Elections

Hugo Chavez The presidents of the Mercosur countries – Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay – and Venezuela released this Tuesday, December 8, at the 38th Mercosur Summit, a joint statement disregarding the presidential elections in Honduras, which occurred in late November.

In a document read by Uruguayan President Tabaré Vásquez, they informed that they don't recognize the recent election in Honduras that chose Porfirio Lobo as president and also condemned the removal of Manuel Zelaya of power as well as the "gross violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms of the Honduran people," brought by the coup.

"Given the non-return of President José Manuel Zelaya to the position for which he was democratically elected, the presidents express that they fully and completely ignore the November 29 election, which were conducted in an atmosphere of unconstitutionality, illegality and illegitimacy constituting a hard blow to the democratic values of Latin America and the Caribbean," says the communiqué.

Venezuela's president Hugo Chavez lambasted the ousting of Zelaya, and expressed concern over the recognition by some countries of the "rigged elections."

"Zelaya is the president of Honduras," Chavez said adding that there is "a whole range of diplomatic actions and pressure, aimed to find an honorable exit for Zelaya, but we cannot recognize this government."

"We cannot accept anything but Zelaya back to power and that new elections be carried out," Chavez said before Lula. Argentina's  Cristina Kirchner, Paraguay's Fernando Lugo and Uruguay's Tabaré Vázquez.

Meanwhile, Brazilian president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva informed that the Brazilian Senate will approve the entry of Venezuela in Mercosur, in a meeting scheduled for Wednesday, December 9. The statement was made during a speech at the summit of the South American economic bloc, which took place in Montevideo.

The project, however, is generating controversy in Brazil and senator have taken now more than one month to vote the matter. Last week, party leaders made a commitment to consider the matter on Wednesday. But, according to the senate president, José Sarney, the agreement will not discuss the merits.

Lula's statement drew laughter from the Summit's participants since the vote on this subject has already been postponed  several time in the Higher House. "Venezuela's accession adds scale and complements our block," said Lula to the presidents of the Mercosur countries and Venezuela as well as representatives of other countries associated with the block.

In his speech, Lula also said he believed that Mercosur needs to have more and more representation in the international arena. "We have all the conditions to be a core of integration and sustainable development. We have the largest agricultural area in the world. We are one of the world's major poles of vehicle production. We are also an energy powerhouse in expansion, with advanced technologies in the field of clean and renewable energy."

Lula said that progress must be made on matters like double charging the Common External Tariff (CET) and overcoming cyclical differences, to "tackle head on the asymmetries" between the Mercosur countries.

The president has also defended the improvement of the Fund for the Structural Convergence of Mercosur (Focem) and the institutional strengthening of the economic bloc, with directly elected representatives of the Mercosur's Parliament and the creation of the Mercosur Social Institute.

Lula also spoke about the international economic crisis and said that Brazil responded well to the crisis. "In 2010," he stated, "we will grow at least 5%. We reacted to the crisis with more production, more jobs, greater combat against inequalities."

Early in the speech, Lula congratulated José Mujica for the election in Uruguay, and Evo Morales for being reelected in Bolivia. "Bolivians and Uruguayans have said yes to change projects for the benefit of workers and the excluded. But also place an irrevocable bet in favor of Mercosur and a more integrated South America."

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