Jonathan Fryer

Chavez and Mercosur

Posted by jonathanfryer on Wednesday, 26th March, 2008

hugo-chavez.jpgThe Venezuelan President, Hugo Chavez, has been here in North East Brazil for a couple of days, glad-handing the locals. He took many people by surprise by declaring that Venezuela is now almost a member of Mercosur (Mercosul in Portuguese), the main Latin American regional organisation. Formal membership will depend on the agreement of the core of four countries: Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay, of which only Argentina and Uruguay have so far said ‘yes’. Chavez hopes his presence in Brazil might unruffle feathers. In May last year, when the Brazilian Congress criticised his closure of the main Venezuelan opposition TV channel, he accused it of being subservient to the interests of the United States. He always did know how to win friends and influence people (though I confess I laughed when Ken Livingstone flew out to visit him and got stranded in Cuba instead, as Chavez said he was too busy to receive the Mayor of London).

In principle, Mercosur could be another EU in the making,  though it has a long way to go before it gets its act together. As I reported in a radio despatch from Montevideo a while back, the Mercosur headquarters there is a hive of inactivity. Rivalries betwen member states are still pretty strong, not to mention those between the five other associate members: Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru.  But Latin American businessmen, as well as some politicians, realise that regionalisation is a prerequisite for success in a globalised world, and a united South American bloc would be a formidable entity.

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