The Summit of Asuncion and the direction of the Mercosur

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By @FVicentePrieto / Source TeleSur.net / The Dawn / December 22, 2015.



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On Monday December 21st, the 49th Mercosur Presidential Summit was held. The most visible results include the boost to the free trade agreement with the European Union, the debate on human rights in Venezuela and the announcement of a forthcoming meeting with the Pacific Alliance.

The summit was attended by presidents Horacio Cartes of Paraguay; Dilma Rousseff of Brazil; Mauricio Macri of Argentina; Tabaré Vázquez of Uruguay, all of them full members of the bloc. Also Evo Morales from Bolivia, which is under the process of incorporation. Michelle Bachelet, President of Chile and Moses Nagamootoo, Prime Minister of Guyana, attended as special guests. Representing Venezuela was the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Delcy Rodríguez.


The tense moment of the meeting came when Macri, as expected, called for the “prompt release of political prisoners in Venezuela”. “Because in the States member of the Mercosur there can not be room for political persecution due to ideological reasons or unlawful deprivation of freedom for thinking differently”, he said.


Afterwards, the Venezuelan Foreign Minister spoke and addressed Macri with a photo of Leopoldo Lopez in her hand: “You are meddling in Venezuelan affairs” she said. “You are defending this person, you are defending this kind of demonstration, this political violence” said the chancellor, who then showed several photographs of the protests, indicating some of the attacks reported during 2014 guarimbas.

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This was the photo of Leopoldo Lopez acting violently during a demonstration that the Venezuelan Foreign Minister showed


“Stop defending violent people” asked Rodriguez, who then recalled that “in Venezuela there are independent public authorities that must be respected by the international community”. Then the chancellor countered by pointing out the double standard of Macri, who is close to the coupists who have violated human rights in Argentina and in Venezuela. Rodriguez  made a mistake when she accused Macri of having released repressors of the dictatorship in his early days in office, something that is product of a misinformation. She also correctly mentioned the prosecution against Hebe de Bonafini, a Mother of Plaza de Mayo who is imputed for calling to demonstrate against the Argentine government.

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Delcy Rodríguez shows a picture of the demonstrations incited by López, where military weapons such as bazookas were used. Macri says that the punishment of these acts is a repression against “freedom of expression”

 

At that moment, Macri looked uncomfortable and did not answer. Argentina’s Foreign Minister, Susana Malcorra, said that “the President decided that a response was not necessary” and stressed that “the information the Chancellor had is wrong”.


Macri’s intervention had the approval of privately-owned media in Argentina. Infobae.com began the news story by saying that “this Monday, the Argentine President Mauricio Macri met another campaign promise”. “In his debut on the international agenda, the head of State raised his concern to Presidents of Mercosur regarding the persecution of political opposition in Venezuela”, they added.

 

The journal Clarin said on its website that Venezuela’s response as “unusual”, because of the erroneous information provided by the chancellor. But like Journal “La Nación”,  they avoided reproducing the actual words by which Rodriguez countered Macri, and the pictures of the “peaceful protests” led by Leopoldo Lopez.


In her response, Delcy Rodríguez also said: “During the ‘peaceful’ protests of 2014 the Public Ministry was burned, essential public services were attacked. We had to evacuate an educational institution for children three to five years old. They burned transport cars and food trucks. Nineteen State universities were burned. In this situation, the Judiciary acted”.
A few hours earlier, popular organizations of Argentina nucleated in the Anti-Imperialist Camp and ALBA Movements, had denounced Macri’s complicity with coup sectors of Venezuela, “as part of the strategy of recolonization of the continent.”

 

En route to Free Trade

The main conclusion of the MERCOSUR meeting is that the bloc proposes to liberalize trade with the European Union and strengthen an approach to the Pacific Alliance.

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The host country, Paraguay, prepared the ground and Macri was again one of the protagonists of the strategic shift. In relation to progress in trade liberalization, the Argentine President complained that “we have not done enough”. “We do not want a slow Mercosur, but together we must tighten the throttle”, he said, pressing Venezuela to join FTAA with the European Union. This process was negotiated before incorporation of Venezuela into Mercosur and the Caribbean country has remained on the sidelines.


Macri also expressed the need for “flexibility and predictability” for business of large companies. In this regard he called for “clear game rules, to create a framework of trust and confidence to attract investment and infrastructure projects”.

 

Dilma Rousseff, confirmed her country’s interest in signing the FTAA with Europe again. “Mercosur is ready” she said. “The answer is on the other side of the Atlantic”. Dilma also proposed to establish relations with the Pacific Alliance and “all work for the creation of a free trade area in Latin America”. Tabaré Vázquez and Horacio Cartes has similar concepts.


In addition to Venezuela, Bolivia disagreed and sustained a different concept of integration based on another logic: “We must deepen the integration process by giving voice to the people to speak out, so that this model does not end up in the pockets of capital but of society“, proposed Evo. He also warned that “the global economic crisis seeks to lower the price of raw material produced by the South, with the aim of reducing production costs in the North and that our workers suffer the adjustment”.

 

The president of Bolivia again raised the need to respect the environment. “We would be in a better position in relation to the double standards of the world’s powers that sacrifice the Mother Earth to their voracious capitalist appetite”, he said.

 

Finally, he proposed to shift the focus to the intra-regional domestic market against manipulation of international commodity markets, made from “imperial geopolitical calculations”. In this regard he proposed to act “as a single continental economy, as a Continental Plurinational State” to influence price regulation and redirect the course of the dominant economic globalization.

 

Despite the call, the Summit endorsed an entirely opposite course of action. The final declaration, full of generalities, greetings and good intentions, contains some unambiguous data. Point number 9 states that heads of State “agreed on the interest of convening a high-level meeting in the short-term between Mercosur and the Pacific Alliance to address issues of common interest“. And after speaking generalities about the protection of biodiversity in the region, it stresses “the importance of further encouraging of the use of biofuels” and “recognition of mining as a productive tool for transforming the social and economic reality (…) promoting the population’s development and people’s roots in the context of social and environmental sustainability”.

 

Precisely big agribusiness and mining are two central points in the offensive of capitalism in South America, which cause huge profits for the dominant companies and serious social conflicts with the population living in the territories.

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