Cynthia J. Arnson
Director, Latin American Program, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars
On July 30, Mercosur’s Council of Ministers—its most important governing body other than the presidents themselves—was to have met in Montevideo, Uruguay. Among the tasks at hand was to ratify the bloc’s rotating president, with Venezuela in line to take over for the next six months. In protest over Venezuela’s slated ascension, the government of Paraguay refused to attend and the meeting was cancelled. Both Brazil and Paraguay argue that Venezuela is not fit to lead, as it hasn’t fulfilled the democratic commitments it made when joining Mercosur in 2012. The spat intensified when Venezuela’s foreign minister, Delcy Rodríguez, informed her counterparts on July 29th that Venezuela was assuming the presidency of Mercosur, regardless of objections.
How the spat will be resolved—Uruguay has indicated that “there are no legal arguments to impede the transfer”—remains to be seen. But if Venezuela takes over, one important casualty will be Mercosur’s incipient rapprochement with the countries of the Pacific Alliance (PA). This is despite the interest of Argentina, Uruguay, and now Brazil in greater convergence, as well as the long-standing interest of Chile in serving as a “bridge” between the between the two South American blocs.
Consider recent developments. The Pacific Alliance presidents of Chile, Colombia, Mexico, and Peru met earlier this month in Puerto Varas, …
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