Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro hit back at the other members of MERCOSUR Sunday after the latter moved to activate the trade bloc’s Democratic Clause against Venezuela during an emergency meeting over the weekend.
Meeting in Buenos Aires on Saturday, the foreign ministers of Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, and Paraguay issued a joint statement calling on Venezuela to reestablish “effective separation of powers” or face expulsion from the commercial body.
“The Venezuelan government must immediately adopt concrete, concerted measures with the opposition in order to ensure the effective separation of powers, respect for the rule of law, human rights, and respect for institutions,” announced Argentine Foreign Minister Susana Malcorra, reading from the text of the document.
The meeting was called in response to pair of rulings by Venezuela’s Supreme Court, which would have temporarily authorized the high court to assume parliamentary functions in view of the opposition-controlled National Assembly’s ongoing contempt of the constitution.
The controversial decisions were, however, reversed on Saturday at the behest of the country’s National Security Council in an effort to overcome the tense institutional standoff.
Speaking on his weekly Sunday television program, President Maduro lambasted the joint statement as a further instance of undue interference in Venezuelan internal affairs by countries he claimed were themselves lacking in democratic credentials.
“Yesterday the foreign ministers of MERCOSUR met…to continue with their political lynching and harassment against Venezuela and they did so without uttering a single word about the grave incidents in Paraguay on the night of March 31,” he said, referring to the killing of an opposition activist by Paraguayan security forces during protests against a controversial constitutional amendment permitting presidential reelection.
Paraguayan President Horacio Cartes was elected in 2013 following the impeachment of sitting leftist President Fernando Lugo in what was widely decried as a parliamentary coup.
The Venezuelan president likewise denounced the participation of Brazil in the meeting, which last year underwent its own Paraguay-style impeachment proceeding that resulted in the ouster of the elected Workers’ Party president, Dilma Rousseff.
“The coup government of Brazil has a 90 percent disapproval rating among Brazilians and [the foreign ministers] didn’t make a peep,” he continued.
In addition to the president’s remarks, Venezuela’s Foreign Ministry also issued a formal communiqué expressing its “categorical rejection” of the emergency meeting, which it said “infringed on Venezuela’s status as a member-state of MERCOSUR”.
For her part, Malcorra, who currently holds the bloc’s rotating presidency, indicated that the process to invoke the MERCOSUR Democratic Clause would go ahead despite the Venezuelan Supreme Court’s move to retract the rulings.
“While the situation has improved in the last few hours, we are far from being able to prove that there is balance of powers in Venezuela,” the Argentine foreign minister stated.
Nonetheless, Malcorra insisted that the procedure to apply the measure had just begun and would only result in Venezuela’s expulsion from MERCOSUR if the South American country failed to meet the bloc’s demands, including holding regional and municipal elections this year as well as releasing “political prisoners”.
Caracas was set to assume the body’s six-month pro tempore presidency last July but was blocked by Paraguay, Brazil, and Argentina in what it decried as an illegal violation of protocol.
Venezuela has protested its suspension as “illegal”, accusing the right-wing governments in Asuncion, Brasilia, and Buenos Aires – dubbed the “Triple Alliance” – of perpetrating a “coup” in a bid to push MERCOSUR to the right.