By Lise Alves, Senior Contributing Reporter
SÃO PAULO, BRAZIL – The controversy about whether or not to allow Venezuela to occupy the temporary presidency of the Mercosur bloc has widened, with the Brazilian foreign relations committee releasing a note rejecting the transfer of power.
“A government that maintains political prisoners, persecutes opponents, disrespects the legislative body and interferes with the judiciary can not preside over Mercosur,” Brazilian Senator Ana Amélia Lemos, told government news sources.
According to Senator Lemos, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has given ample demonstrations that he does not govern democratically.
The trade bloc’s rules are that a change in presidency is conducted every six months among the five Mercosur partners, Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay and Venezuela.
On Wednesday, July 12th, during a scheduled Presidents’ Summit in Montevideo (Uruguay) the leadership of the bloc would be passed from Uruguay to Venezuela. The other countries in the bloc do not seem very eager to allow Venezuela to head the organization, and the Summit has been cancelled.
Paraguay, according to local media seems to be the most critical of the Venezuelan presidency. The country had been suspended from the alliance when the other three members agreed to allow Venezuela to enter the bloc, back in 2012.
Brazilian Foreign Minister, José Serra, has also criticized the government Nicolas Maduro, stating that there is no democracy in the country. Both Brazil and Argentina have criticized President Maduro’s efforts to hinder a referendum, proposed by the opposition, to decide if he is to remain in power.
Critics also fear that with Venezuela at the helm of the alliance, agreements between the bloc and the European Union, now underway, will be delayed. Despite the controversy, Uruguay announced last week plans to go ahead with the transfer.
“The Uruguayan government, acting in the temporary presidency of Mercosur, reiterates its position of passing (presidency) it, as required by the current Mercosur regulations,” said a statement issued by the Foreign Ministry of Uruguay.