Argentina Tries to Broker Peace in Brazil/Venezuela War

Argentina President Nestor Kirchner with his Venezuelan counterpart, Hugo Chavez Argentine President Nestor Kirchner called Thursday, July 5, on his Brazilian counterpart Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva to help smooth the way so Venezuela can become an active member of Mercosur.

"We're deeply convinced we must keep advancing with the currently implemented policies, with the building of Mercosur and with the unity of the peoples of Latinamerica. That is why it's important to smooth the way, as I told Lula, so that Venezuela can become an active member of Mercosur," underlined Kirchner.

According to Buenos Aires press reports, Kirchner contacted Lula early Thursday in an attempt to defuse a conflict which has spiraled following Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez warning that if the congresses of Brazil and Paraguay do not ratify in three months the incorporation of his country to Mercosur, he would withdraw his incorporation request.

On Wednesday Lula said he was interested in talking with Chavez but also underlined that there are rules to become a member of Mercosur, and none to leave the block. If he does not want to remain, he doesn't have to remain.

The block's impasse occurs on the first anniversary of the signing in Caracas on July 4, 2006, of Venezuela's Mercosur incorporation protocol.

The protocol has already been approved by the legislative branches of Argentina and Uruguay but Brazil and Paraguay are still pending. Congressional ratification is necessary as part of the incorporation process, as well as certain trade regulations, already effective in the block and which Venezuela must begin adopting, gradually in a period extending to 2014.

We must act with open arms to work with Latinamerican countries, said Kirchner who recalled that on Wednesday "we had an excellent meeting with Bolivia's vice president Alvaro Garcia Linares to talk about regional integration."

Apparently Argentina is concerned that Venezuela might finally decide not to join Mercosur. President Chavez is one of Mr Kirchner's closest allies and has purchased several issues of Argentine bonds valued in billions of US dollars.

Kirchner tried to cool tempers saying that legislative branches have their own rhythm.

The Brazil/Venezuela controversy was triggered when Chavez called the Brazilian senators, parrots that repeat Washington's commands and oligarchs because they voted a motion calling for a reconsideration of the decision not to renew the license of Venezuela's oldest and long established television station RCTV. Senators replied threatening not to consider the protocol.

President Kirchner said that the debate, which has been exposed and became noisy, only hurts the region and therefore benefits the United States.

Mercopress

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