Cuba may become an associate member of the Mercosur as early as 2005, affirms the Argentinean undersecretary of Economic Integration, Eduardo Sigal.
Brazilian officials confirm the possibility of Cuba and Mexico’s entering into free trade agreements with the bloc currently formed by Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay, and Uruguay.
Chile, Bolivia, and Peru are already associate members.
The Mercosur officially received Cuba’s request to join a trade bloc for the first time on March 12 of this year.
“Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay have no objections to Cuba’s entry, but Uruguay is presently opposed to dealing with this question. Since everything in the Mercosur is done by consensus, a change in attitude or policy will be necessary for us to discuss the matter,” Sigal explains.
In April, 2002, when the Administration of the current Uruguayan President, Jorge Batlle, had already begun, Uruguay and Cuba severed diplomatic and commercial ties.
It all started when Montevideo pressed the United Nations Commission on Human Rights to send an observer to Havana to report on respect for human rights in that Caribbean country.
The proposal, which implied a criticism of Cuba’s conduct in this area, was approved. The Cuban government accused Batlle of being “servile” to US interests.
Batlle says that political conditions in Cuba prevent an association between that country and the Mercosur.
“It is impossible, because the Cuban system fails to meet the democratic prerequisite.”
Batlle claims the endorsement of the so-called Democratic Clause of the Mercosur, in the Ushuaia (Argentina) Protocol of July, 1998.
This clause determines that “the full sway of democratic institutions is an essential condition for the development of the processes of integration among the Member States; and that any alteration of democratic order constitutes an unacceptable obstacle to participation in the process of integration.”
In other words, a country must have a democratic government to be an associate member of the Mercosur. The other requirement for becoming an associate member is the signing of a free trade agreement, the stage that Cuba now wishes to attain. On this item, there is no obstacle to an agreement.
“The democratic clause applies to a country that wants to become an associate member. Cuba has not yet requested this stage. For a trade agreement of the type 4+1, the step preceding membership, it is not necessary to comply with the clause.
“Furthermore, it is not clear that the clause can be applied against Cuba, where, although party pluralism doesn’t exist, participatory democracy and elections for representatives are present, as in any political system. The elements of voice and representation [characteristic] of a Republic are there. It will a topic for debate,” Sigal foresees.
Translator: David Silberstein