Rio: Army on the Streets to Secure Brazil’s Mercosur Summit

Former Brazilian president José Sarney (1985/1990) admitted that Mercosur was undergoing a "crisis situation" but it's something normal to the development of a customs' union.

"I believe Mercosur is going through a crisis situation but all economic unions, in the terms we have proposed, have problems to solve. We're not an exception," said Sarney who currently in a member of the Brazilian Senate.

"We've seen difficult times, as currently, but the idea behind the block is so strong, so necessary for our continent, that I'm certain it will prevail, triumphantly," he added.

Sarney with then Argentine president Ricardo Alfonsí­n began towards the end of the 80s the integration process, which would lead to the signing of the 1991 Treaty of Asuncion, also carried by Uruguay and Paraguay, and which is the founding stone of Mercosur.

The South American group is scheduled to hold a presidential summit this Thursday and Friday in Rio do Janeiro in the midst of growing turbulence and complaints from the junior partners who claim Brazil and Argentina are monopolizing decisions.

Uruguay and Paraguay feel that in the sixteen years since the founding of Mercosur they have been impaired by Argentina and Brazil's reluctance to letting them have full access to their markets.

Venezuela which only recently joined, believes Mercosur should have an agenda more concentrated on social issues than trade, and President Chavez who favors and is executing a nationalization program, highly critical of the United States, believes that the block in its current condition "is no good" and serves "no purpose".

Meantime reports from Rio indicate that federal troops have moved into the city in anticipation of Mercosur's summit but also to help contain the growing violence and audacity of crime gangs. The troops are expected to fend off Rio do Janeiro from neighboring states from where most guns and drugs are smuggled into the city and other locations.

Rio do Janeiro governor Sergio Cabral asked for support and aid from President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva following a spate of killings and attacks against police stations and buses which left at least 19 dead and dozens wounded during New Year.

The state's Public Security Chief José Mariano Beltrame said a first contingent of 500 special forces have already been displayed and the number is expected to reach 6.000 by next July when the city hosts the Pan-American Games.

Rio do Janeiro has one of the country's highest homicide rates with 40 per one thousand residents, plus the scourge of the drugs traffic and gangs that dominate the shantytowns where a significant percentage of the population lives.

Mercopress

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