Brazil’s Lula Praises Chavez But Tells Him He Is Free to Leave Mercosur

Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva said he was looking forward to talk with his Venezuelan counterpart Hugo Chavez to discuss the latest Mercosur misunderstandings but he also emphasized that there are rules to become a member of the trade group, but none to leave.

Lula who is currently in Lisbon, Portugal, said he wished to contact Chavez whom on Tuesday warned that if the congresses of Brazil and Paraguay do not approve in three months time the adherence protocol of Venezuela to Mercosur, his government would withdraw the incorporation request.

"There are rules to come in to Mercosur, but none to leave. If he does not want to remain, he doesn't have to," said the Brazilian president without giving details of a possible meeting with his counterpart.

Lula insisted that Mercosur is an "extraordinary opportunity" for the region to ensure sustained growth.

"I was hoping to chat with Chavez in Paraguay (during the Mercosur summit) but no, he had other appointments, but I guess we'll have a chance to meet in the near future and find out what is really happening," underlined Lula.

"Brazil has an extraordinary relation with Venezuela", added Lula.

Earlier in the day officials from Brazil's Foreign Affairs were very specific. "Nobody sets timetables to other countries to force them make a decision, not even we do that when it involves the friendliest of countries," said Walfrido dos Mares Guia, head of Institutional relations department that is the link between the Executive and Congress.

The Brazil/Venezuela impasse occurs exactly on the first year of the signing of the Mercosur Caracas adherence protocol, July 4th 2006.

The protocol has already been approved by the congress of Uruguay and Argentina but Brazil and Paraguay's are still pending. The protocol is a key step in the full incorporation process to Mercosur of a new member.

However a strong exchange of statements between Brazilian Congress members and Venezuela led Chavez to warn that if the protocol is not approved by September, he would withdraw the Mercosur incorporation request.

Marcos Aurélio Garcia, head of presidential advisors on international policy remarked that if Chavez believes it's not worth while joining Mercosur, it will be a sovereign decision of his."

Last May Chavez said Brazilian senators were "Washington parrots" and "oligarchs" for having voted a resolution in support of a Venezuelan television station which had to go off the air because its license was not renewed.

The Brazilian Senate reacted asking for an apology and Chavez went further and warned that if the Venezuela incorporation protocol is not approved by September, he would withdraw from Mercosur.

Chavez also described Brazilian Foreign Affairs minister Celso Amorim "positive gesture" (towards Congress) suggestion as "impertinent".

Mercopress

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