President Kirchner left the Cordoba Mercosur summit early Friday night in what was rumored as an intentional snub to his presidential colleagues, who included Cuba’s Fidel Castro and Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez.
The move, however, was seen as a part of an effort by Argentina and Brazil to detach themselves somewhat from other members.
There was no explanation for Kirchner’s departure for Buenos Aires. The new axis, Venezuela-Cuba-Bolivia, was seen as too leftwing and too anti-US for the current arrangement.
Cuban commander (not president) Castro and Bolivian President Evo Morales happened to steal the limelight. Both took part as observers at the two-day meeting in the central city of Cordoba.
The meeting deserved much space in the media show, but not so much in the desired results. Mercosur chiefs wound up a summit in Argentina marking the incorporation of Venezuela, and which saw President Néstor Kirchner leave early in what observers said was part of Argentina’s attempt together with Brazil to prevent Chavez from pushing the trade bloc too far to the left.
Argentina and Brazil are seeking to offset the increasing influence of the populist Chavez who is conveniently critical of the US over the Customs union that is rocked by a flurry of bilateral disputes among its members.
But observers said that both Buenos Aires and Brasília are facing an uphill battle to keep Chavez at bay.
"This is an extremely unstable balance and if Argentina and Brazil fail in their efforts, Mercosur could be dealt a catastrophic blow," observer Ricardo Rouvier said, adding that Kirchner’s leaving immediately after the summit ended was a cautious move to mark a distance from Chavez and Castro, who after the official summit ended took part in a parallel "Peoples’s Summit."