Mer­co­sur trade bloc sus­pends Venezuela on democ­racy fears

Kuwait Times - - BUSINESS -

The South Amer­i­can trade bloc Mer­co­sur sus­pended Venezuela in­def­i­nitely Satur­day for fail­ing to up­hold demo­cratic norms amid an in­ten­si­fy­ing crack­down on dis­sent in the coun­try.

The bloc pre­vi­ously sus­pended Venezuela in De­cem­ber for fail­ing to up­hold com­mit­ments it made when it joined the group in 2012. The sus­pen­sion will have lit­tle prac­ti­cal ef­fect, with no eco­nomic sanc­tions or changes to trade or mi­gra­tion, and the bloc said it would try to limit any pos­si­ble im­pact on Venezue­lans to avoid ex­ac­er­bat­ing the hu­man­i­tar­ian cri­sis in the coun­try. Brazil­ian For­eign Min­is­ter Aloy­sio Nunes, for in­stance, said Venezue­lans re­main wel­come in Brazil. Venezue­lans rou­tinely cross into the con­ti­nent’s largest na­tion in search of food and other ba­sic sup­plies amid short­ages back home. In­stead, Nunes said the move would have a “po­lit­i­cal ef­fect.”

The new sus­pen­sion will also make it harder for Venezuela to re­turn to good stand­ing since it can be lifted only when the bloc is sat­is­fied that demo­cratic or­der has been re­stored.

Meet­ing in Sao Paulo, Mer­co­sur for­eign min­is­ters said the move was meant to send a mes­sage to their South Amer­i­can neigh­bor, which is in the throes of a deep­en­ing po­lit­i­cal and eco­nomic cri­sis.

“Today in Venezuela there is no democ­racy,” Ar­gen­tine For­eign Min­is­ter Jorge Fau­rie told re­porters after meet­ing with his coun­ter­parts from Brazil, Uruguay and Paraguay. “Es­sen­tially what Mer­co­sur is say­ing is: With­out democ­racy, no, you can­not be a part of Mer­co­sur.”

The sus­pen­sion was widely ex­pected, and Venezue­lan Pres­i­dent Ni­co­las Maduro crit­i­cized the de­ci­sion even be­fore it be­came fact. “No­body will kick us out of Mer­co­sur, even if they take il­le­gal mea­sures as they have done,” he told Ar­gentina’s Ra­dio Re­belde ear­lier. “It is time for us to unite, to cre­ate a trade bloc of power, of de­vel­op­ment.”

The meet­ing came as Venezuela’s newly formed con­sti­tu­tional as­sem­bly ousted the coun­try’s chief pros­e­cu­tor, a one-time gov­ern­ment ally turned critic.

The as­sem­bly will have pow­ers that su­per­sede all other branches of gov­ern­ment, and the op­po­si­tion fears it will be used as a tool to strengthen Maduro’s power and crack down fur­ther on his po­lit­i­cal op­po­nents. Maduro and his al­lies ar­gue that it of­fers the best chance for peace after months of un­rest. —AP

SAO PAULO: Venezue­lan cit­i­zens liv­ing in Brazil protest against Venezue­lan Pres­i­dent Ni­co­las Maduro, out­side Sao Paulo’s City Hall as the For­eign Min­is­ters of Mer­co­sur meet in Sao Paulo. The South Amer­i­can trade bloc has de­cided to sus­pend Venezuela for fail­ing to fol­low demo­cratic norms. — AP

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