Brazil Downplays Chavez Snub. He Skips Mercosur Summit to Go Arms Shopping in Moscow

Presidents Hugo Chavez and Lula da Silva Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez' likely failure to attend the upcoming Mercosur presidential summit in Paraguay is not a politically transcendental issue, but a simple problem of agenda, said Marco Aurelio Garcia, Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva's foreign affairs aide.

Lula da Silva confirmed his attendance to the summit scheduled for June 29 in Asuncion, while Brazilian press reports claim that Chavez will not be present at the meeting because he will be visiting Moscow at that time, apparently arms shopping, possibly submarines.

"The likely absence is normal. Presidents have very complex agendas. Not all presidents attend all meetings" said Marco Aurelio Garcia.

Last week Chavez in his daily chats "with the people" said he was not interested "in the old Mercosur".

However Lula da Silva's advisor denied that Chavez' likely non-attendance means that Venezuela is neglecting the regional bloc.
Venezuela has not become a full member of Mercosur, as it requires endorsement from the Brazilian and Paraguayan parliaments. Only Argentina and Uruguay's parliaments have given the green light so far.

President Chavez had a serious exchange with the Brazilian Senate over the license non renewal of Venezuela's oldest television station RCTV, which has become a most controversial issue both domestically and internationally. Chavez called the Brazilian senators "Washington parrots" and representatives of "the oligarchy that exploits the Brazilian people."

The Brazilian Senate asked for an apology from Chavez and recalled that the Senate still has to take a vote in Venezuela's request to become a full member of Mercosur.

Marco Aurelio Garcia tried to downplay the whole incident and said that delayed Venezuelan entry into the bloc "does not disturb Brazil."

However Brazil's Foreign Secretary Celso Amorim was more direct in a long weekend interview with the influential daily O Estado de S. Paulo and said Chavez must accept the rules of Mercosur.

"If you want to join the club, first accept the existing rules and then try to change them," said Amorim. "Existing rules are good for Mercosur and are also good for Venezuela".

Nevertheless Amorim added that "Mercosur is evolving and will continue to evolve", and mentioned the social agenda and efforts to overcome the asymmetries with the smaller member states.

"We would have liked to have him (Chavez) in the Asuncion summit, but as is obvious he's free to do as he wishes," concluded Amorim.



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