By Lise Alves, Senior Contributing Reporter
SÃO PAULO, BRAZIL – The four founding nations of Mercosur (Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay) have announced that they are suspending Venezuela from the trade bloc, for ‘failure to fulfill its membership obligations’ including economic and human rights agreements, according to Brazil’s official government news agency, Agencia Brasil.
According to news reports, the bloc’s four foreign ministers drafted a statement explaining that Venezuela has not complied with agreements by the December 1st deadline. On Tuesday, November 29th Venezuela issued a statement declaring it was ready to fulfill the common tariffs and free circulation of goods clause of the agreement.
At the time, Venezuela asked not to be suspended. “We will not withdraw (from the bloc) or be taken out of Mercosur … We make an appeal to the people of the Mercosur capitals to defend Venezuela because this is to defend the ideals of integration, unity and cooperation,” stated Venezuela’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Delcy Rodríguez.
Venezuela’s membership in the trade bloc has always been an issue of controversy, but tensions between the Maduro government and its partners increased after more center-wing and less left-wing parties took over the governments of Brazil and Argentina. Last July, Brazil refused to accept the transfer of the Mercosur Presidency to its South American neighbor. At the time, Brazil justified its opposition stating that ‘a government that maintains political prisoners, persecutes opponents, disrespects the legislative body and interferes with the judiciary can not preside over Mercosur’.
Mercosur was founded in 1991 and accepted Venezuela as a member in 2012. In addition to the four founding members, Bolivia, Chile, Peru, Colombia, Ecuador and Suriname are associate countries of the regional trade bloc.
This is the second time Mercosur partners have suspended one of its members. In 2012, Mercosur countries declared the temporary suspension of Paraguay, following the impeachment of that country’s President, Fernando Lugo. The suspension was lifted in August of 2013.