This posting is an update on the previous article – Brazil votes: Venezuela as Full Member of Mercosur and is a guest contribution by Dr. David Fleischer, Emeritus professor of Political Science at the University of Brasília, and editor of Brazil Focus – a weekly political risk newsletter.
On a relatively close vote (35-to-27), on Tuesday evening, 15th Dec., the Brazilian Senate approved the Mercosul protocol for Venezuela’s admission as a full member of Mercosul. This protocol had already been approved by the Chamber of Deputies. Although Uruguayan and Argentine legislatures have also approved this protocol, it has yet to be approved by the Paraguayan Congress, and the measure was recently withdrawn from consideration by Pres. Fernando Lugo to avoid its defeat.
Opposition (PSDB and DEM) leaders in the Senate criticized the anti-democratic acts practiced by Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, but government floor leader Sen. Romero Jucá (PSDB-RR) reminded his tucano colleagues that the negotiations for Venezuela’s admission to Mercosul had begun during the government of Pres. F.H. Cardoso (PSDB). This protocol began deliberations in the Brazilian Congress in 2006.
On Wednesday, 16th Dec., Foreign Minister Celso Amorim praised this decision by the Senate – “This decision was the result of broad and democratic debate in the Brazilian legislature and reinforces Brazil’s efforts to advance integration in South America. With Venezuela as a full member of Mercosul, this bloc will have 270 million people and a joint GDP of over US$ 2 trillion”.
In 2008, Brazil exported US$5.15 billion to Venezuela and imported US$540 million. That same year, Brazil exported US$21.74 billion to the other Mercosul countries imported US$14.93 billion. Thus, Brazil’s trade flow with Venezuela (US$5.69 billion) is much less than that with Mercosul (US$36.67 billion).
Opposition Senators were concerned about the “loss of democracy” with regards the press, the courts and the legislature that would disqualify Venezuela for membership under the current Mercosul Charter. On 27th October, Caracas Mayor Antonio Ledezma, a leading opposition leader to the Chávez government, told the Brazilian Senate that even though Venezuela is not a democracy, he favored full membership in Mercosul so that this South American trading bloc would have leverage to enforce this group’s rules and protocols, as well as achieve a stronger position to negotiate free trade agreements – with the EU, for example.
This protocol stipulates that as of 2012, Brazilian and Argentine exports to Venezuela will have zero tariffs.