By Lise Alves, Senior Contributing Reporter
SÃO PAULO, BRAZIL – The heads of Mercosur member states met in Mendoza, Argentina on Friday (July 21st) and expressed concern over the political situation in Venezuela, calling for the government of Nicolas Maduro to restore institutional order and restart dialogue with the country’s opposition.
“Our chancellors formally recognized the rupture of the democratic order in Venezuela. Our message is clear: we have won democracy in our region with great sacrifice, and we will not shut up, we will not ignore any setbacks,” said Brazilian President Michel Temer during the conference.
In addition to the four Mercosur founding members, (Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay), the leaders of Colombia, Chile, Guyana and Mexico, gathered at the summit.
The final declaration of Mercosur signatory states calls for the restoration of ‘institutional order, the rule of law and the separation of powers, in full respect of constitutional guarantees and human rights’ asking that Venezuelan officials to take no further action which could divide Venezuelan society and worsen institutional conflicts’.
Although the Venezuelan issue became the main topic of this year’s summit, leaders also discussed negotiations for a bloc agreement with the European Union. In his speech, President Temer said that Brazil, which now assumes the six-month presidency of the bloc, would focus on dialogue among members and continue to strongly engage in talks to conclude a trade agreement with the European Union.
President Temer also said that Mercosur officials will work to strengthen the bloc’s ties with the countries of the Pacific Alliance.
Looking to expand the bloc’s reach, Mercosur countries signed an Economic Complementation Agreement (ACE) to increase trade relations with Colombia, which is an associate member of the bloc.
The agreement should help the region’s economic outlook, which according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) is falling below expectations. On Monday, July 24th, the international entity lowered its economic growth forecast for Latin America and the Caribbean to 2017 and 2018.
“Latin America continues to struggle against slower growth compared to the rest and we downgrade the outlook for the region over the next two years,” IMF Research Director Maurice Obstfeld said during a live webcast from Malaysia.
The IMF now estimates that Latin America and the Caribbean will together grow one percent in 2017 and 1.9 percent in 2018, a forecast that is 0.1 percent lower than predicted three months ago.