Friday, July 09, 2004

Venezuela in the Mercosur
And Chavez campaigns fast on it

Thursday 8, July 2004

This is live writing folks. As I type Chavez is having yet a cadena. The topic? Venezuela's inclusion as an associate member of the Mercosur.

First I am a little bit surprised at it since a few months ago someone in the Mercosur said that if Venezuela wanted to engage in new trade obligations it should start by fulfilling the one it already has with other trade associations. But Chavez has been pushing through and through to get into the Mercosur for political reasons: anything to escape any trade deal with the US....

Anyway, an ailing Mercosur relented and decided to let in as associate state Venezuela and Mexico. After all, Peru and Colombia are already negotiating so it is not a big surprise that at some point all of South America will integrate into some trade block. Chavez has no problem making all sort of promises to his Southern colleagues (one day we will find out about the bill, as there is no open information on the negotiating positions of Venezuela and the Mercosur, if it is getting advantageous terms, is certainly not going to herald them!)

This is yet another golden propaganda opportunity and Chavez did not miss it. So tonight, barely hours after the announcement was made, a cadena showed us a smiling Chavez with a few well chosen clips from the different leaders praising Venezuela. These comments certainly were part of a general pattern of mutual pleasantness, but the montage of Chavez press people coupled with his explanations made them sound as if he were some kind of Messiah bringing in the leadership of the glorious bolivarian revolution (The president of Paraguay actually mentioned Venezuela new full and silly name). I wonder what Lula would think if he had time to watch such nonsense...

There was actually an interesting moment that Chavez tried to twist into his favor, though I am not sure it will work. Chile's president, Lagos, (who by the way is negotiating real well with the US Devil while inside the Mercosur) has been gingerly dealing with Chavez for quite a while. Even Chilean socialist don't buy Chavez populism. Well, while he was welcoming Chavez he was congratulating him on his political courage for accepting to go to a referendum. And right then added that the Mercosur should send observers, a lot of them, to witness such a fine moment, to learn from it themselves, help Venezuela to decide in peace and the losing side to accept the verdict.

The translation from "diplomatese" is: OK Chavez, we are watching you. We know what you are up to but you will not get away with it. You better have clean elections and certifiable results

If you doubt my translation read about the tense relationships between Lagos and Chavez for the past 2 years. Actually socialist Lagos administration and initiatives are probably the ones most at odds with Chavez goals. And Chile is the country doing the best, by far, in South America, something surely that irks Chavez a lot.

Chavez as a wily politician decided to preempt anything by interpreting Lagos's words as "see! In south America they know what is going on in Venezuela! I wish the opposition would understand that it must play the democratic game" while we all know that the opposition is the one asking for international observers while the pro Chavez Electoral Board is trying its outmost to block them! The nerve! Do chavistas buy that crap? I find it hard to believe...

Actually I think that the Mercosur is playing a trick on Chavez. This one is having more and more problems with Lula and Kirchener since last February when they saw first hand themselves the violence in Caracas. I bet that they decided to let Chavez in as a way to force him to have a fair referendum on August (and perhaps hoping to get rid of him). After all the agreement is only to welcome Venezuela and there are a lot of negotiations still to come. If indeed it is a propaganda tool for Chavez it is also a noose for his neck as he will not be able to refuse the observers that Lagos et al. will send.

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