By Lise Alves, Senior Contributing Reporter

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The tension between Mercosur partners increased on Tuesday, September 13th as chancellors from Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay decided not to allow Venezuela to occupy the presidency of the trade bloc and have threaten to suspend the South American country from the group.

Brazil, Brasilia, Foreign Relations Ministry, Jose Serra foreign relations minister
Brazil’s Foreign Relations Minister, Jose Serra, has been one of the greatest critics of having Venezuela take over the Mercosur Presidency, photo by Jessika Lima/MRE.

According to Brazil’s Foreign Ministry (Itamaraty), the four member-countries decided to oppose turning over the presidency of the bloc because Venezuela did not comply with the rules of the Mercosur Protocol, signed in 2006, including the promotion and protection of human rights and an agreement of residency among citizens of Mercosur partners.

“The deadline for Venezuela to fulfill its obligations ended on August 12, 2016,” said a note issued by Brazil’s Foreign Minister, Jose Serra, Tuesday afternoon. Venezuela was admitted into the Mercosur bloc in 2012 and given four years to comply with the group’s economic and administrative requirements.

For Serra the action ‘was adopted in the spirit of preserving and strengthening Mercosur’. The statement also said that the partners would give the government of Nicolas Maduro until December 1st to comply with the requirements of the bloc. If Venezuela ‘persists in not fulfilling obligations’ the South American country could be suspended from the group.

In early July, days before the presidency of the bloc was to be transferred from Uruguay to Venezuela, Brazilian government officials as well as the country’s legislators publicly opposed the change, starting a crisis among its member-countries.

“A government that maintains political prisoners, persecutes opponents, disrespects the legislative body and interferes with the judiciary cannot preside over Mercosur,” Brazilian Senator Ana Amélia Lemos, told government news sources said at the time. Officials from Paraguay and Argentina also criticized the move, leaving Uruguay the only member-country to support the rotation change.

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. Due to impasse, until the end of the year when a permanent solution is expected, the regional trade bloc will be led jointly by the other four members.

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