Venezuela Depending on Brazil Now to Become a Mercosur’s Full Member

Presidents Lugo and Lula The President of Paraguay, Fernando Lugo, is scheduled to make his first official international incursion (and test) next September 17 when he visits Brazil and meets with his counterpart, Brazilian ruler Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.

The visit was announced Friday, September 5, in Brazilian capital Brasí­lia following a two hour meeting between Foreign Affairs ministers Alejandro Hamed from Paraguay and Celso Amorim from Brazil.

In a brief press conference the officials said they had analyzed bilateral relations, Mercosur and the South American integration process, and other international issues.

Hamed pointed out that Paraguay will support the Mercosur incorporation of Venezuela which remains stalled in the Paraguayan and Brazilian congresses. Uruguay and Argentina have already finished the process.

"President Lugo will wait for the right moment to make the official request to Congress, but I'm hopeful, certain that the newly elected Congress will support the initiative", said Hamed.

Regarding bilateral relations Hamed admitted that Paraguay's claim of higher prices for electricity generated in the shared Itaipu hydroelectric dam, South America's largest, was what most time demanded and was analyzed "in depth."

According to the Itaipu treaty Brazil and Paraguay share 50/50% the 14.000 MW electricity generated but the small landlocked country satisfies its demand with only 5% of the volume, and under contract must sell the rest to its senior partner. And for this Brazil pays annually US$ 300 million, at 1970s prices.

During his electoral campaign Lugo said the price must be reviewed and increased to the correct value in the range of US$ 2 billion, which Brazil rejects.

Amorim said that Brazil had offered to build a high tension line from Itaipu to the capital Asunción, at a cost of US$ 200 million.

Hamed said the Brazilian offering and all issues concerning Itaipu will be addressed next September 17 and "probably that will be the correct moment to seat a technical commission to discuss all which is necessary."



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