Brazilian senators postponed on Wednesday until next Tuesday the vote on Venezuela's incorporation to Mercosur following a heated debate on the floor when the opposition strongly criticized Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez.
In the midst of the strong exchange extending for over four hours and which was expected to end with a vote on the Venezuelan proposal, the chair of the Senate announced that on agreement from the leaders of the different political groups the debate and vote was postponed until next Tuesday.
Venezuela officially requested to join Mercosur as full member in 2006. The legislatives from Argentina and Uruguay have already approved Venezuela's incorporation as full member but the vote is pending in Brazil and in the Paraguayan Senate, where the opposition has the majority.
The proposal was blocked for over two years when in 2007 Chavez accused Brazilian senators of being "US imperialism puppets" and representatives of the Brazilian oligarchy.
"It's inadmissible that we should be discussing the incorporation to Mercosur of a country, of a president, of a dictator which practices a strange totalitarian democracy", said opposition conservative Senator Kátia Abreu.
The administration of President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva has repeatedly supported Venezuela's incorporation in spite of differences in his own Workers Party.
The argument (shared with part of the Venezuelan opposition) is that it's better to have Chavez inside Mercosur than allied with out-of-the-region regimes (most of them undemocratic).
Furthermore Brazilian corporations have anywhere from 15 to 20 billion US dollars in Venezuelan projects, pending the Senate's vote. Brazil is rapidly becoming one of Venezuela's main trade partners as the situation between President Chavez and President Alvaro Uribe from neighboring Colombia worsens.
Chavez accuses Uribe, by allowing US forces in Colombian bases, of preparing the ground for an attack on his regime and the country's oil by "imperialist" Washington. He has also retaliated by drastically cutting bilateral trade.