The forty-second summit of members of the Southern Common Market (Mercado Común del Sur, or Mercosur) begins today in Montevideo, where Uruguay will hand the six-month presidency of the trade bloc over to Argentina. The economy ministers of the four founding countries—Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay—will convene today, and their presidents will do so tomorrow.
Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa, who has expressed interest in full membership in Mercosur, will also attend. Currently, Ecuador is an associate member of the bloc, along with Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Peru, and Venezuela.
One of the top issues at the summit will be fast-tracking the upgrade of Venezuela’s membership to “full” status. The parliaments of Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay have already ratified Venezuela’s bid, but it remains stalled in Paraguay’s congress. Despite the bid having the imprimatur of Paraguayan President Fernando Lugo, many congressmen from the opposition Colorado party have concerns with Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez’ indifference to Mercosur’s “democratic clause.”
Mercosur’s charter mandates that accession of new members requires unanimous approval from the presidents and legislatures of current members. Venezuela’s bid is already five years old.
Uruguayan President José Mujica has said he would propose amendments to membership rules at this semiannual summit. He elaborated by saying that Venezuela’s membership in Mercosur is “important because it would provide a direct link between Mercosur and ALBA [Alianza Bolivariana para los Pueblos de Nuestra América, or Bolivarian Alliance of the Americas].”