Venezuela Faces Mercosur Suspension on Human Rights Record

Updated on
  • Caracas won’t hold Mercosur rotating presidency this year
  • Venezuela hosts Iran, North Korea, Syria in Margarita summit

The South American trade bloc Mercosur will suspend Venezuela if it fails to meet a December deadline to comply with the group’s human rights and immigration standards.

Venezuela failed to meet commitments it made when it joined in 2006 and was given a Dec. 1 deadline to avoid suspension, according to a statement by the four foreign ministers of the founding members Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay. Caracas won’t hold the bloc’s rotating presidency this year either, according to the ministers, who said their decision aims at “preserving and strengthening Mercosur.”

It is the clearest sign yet that patience with the government of President Nicolas Maduro is running out in a region where many of his leftist allies have been replaced in recent years. Argentine President Mauricio Macri in an interview on Tuesday expressed his “disgust” with Venezuela’s human rights record, accusing Maduro of dragging his feet on plans for a recall referendum on his term.

Chile has accused Venezuela of lack of due process and Brazil this week said it is “very concerned” about the increase of arbitrary detentions in Venezuela. Brazil’s foreign minister Jose Serra last month said Maduro is imposing an “authoritarian” regime on his own country.

Venezuela rejected the decision, suggesting Uruguay wasn’t fully in agreement with it.

“This declaration by the triple alliance of the governments of Argentina and Paraguay and the de facto government of Brazil makes the legitimacy of the organization vulnerable,” Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez said in a post on her Twitter account, referring to the new Brazilian administration that took over following the impeachment of Dilma Rousseff. “In Mercosur, decisions are made by consensus and in respect of the operating rules. We won’t permit violations of the treaties.”

Meanwhile, the country is set to host delegates from countries such as Cuba, Iran, North Korea and Syria during a summit of the Non-Aligned Movement that kicked off on Margarita Island on Tuesday.  

Triple-digit inflation and shortages of most basic goods have helped push Maduro’s approval ratings to near 20 percent. Hundreds of thousands of people have demonstrated against him in Venezuela and the opposition is calling for fresh protests as it seeks a recall referendum on his rule.