Lips are shut on Mercosur, Temer. Photo via Clarín

President Mauricio Macri today traveled to Brazil to attend the Rio Olympics’ inauguration ceremony, which will take place in the Maracana stadium this afternoon. According to Clarín, Brazilian interim President Michel Temer expected to use the opportunity to discuss how to tackle the delicate situation the economic trade bloc Mercosur is currently undergoing, but apparently, Macri was not interested in broaching the subject.

What Has Been Going On With Mercosur Lately? 

On July 22nd, Uruguay finished its term as Mercosur President, but didn’t pass the baton to Venezuela, which is next in line for the presidency, due to the lack of consensus among bloc members. Brazil and Paraguay were opposed to Venezuela taking office, arguing the political, economic and social crisis it’s going through makes it unfit to assume the leadership role.

Venezuela is currently in a state of emergency, plagued by food and medicine shortages as the opposition endeavors to remove President Nicolás Maduro, the hand-picked successor of former populist President Hugo Chávez. Opposition leaders have been trying to oust Maduro to put an end to 17 years of government under the Socialist Party. According to the opposition, it has 1.8 million signatures for a referendum on whether or not Maduro should remain President: Maduro, however, has refused to call the referendum.

Brazilian Foreign Minister José Serra justified his stance by saying that, “Venezuela is in no condition to take office, as it doesn’t comply with Mercosur’s requisites, but also because the bloc couldn’t properly function in Caracas.”

Photo via Popular Agency for South American Communication
Photo via Popular Agency for South American Communication

However, the Maduro administration was not on the same page: in a letter, Venezuelan Foreign Minister Delcy Rodríguez stated her country had decided to take over the presidency anyway: “We inform that, as of today, the Bolivarian republic of Venezuela, with the army’s support, will begin exercising the presidency as established by the Asunción Treaty [Mercosur’s founding document].”

This led to the other Mercosur members to meet yesterday in Montevideo to try to figure out how to proceed. They couldn’t. Argentine Foreign Minister Susana Malcorra suggested a joint presidency among all six members, comprised of the countries’ ambassadors to the Latin American Association for Integration (ALADI) — an organization that promotes regional integration —  but the initiative didn’t reach consensus. No other alternative was proposed.

The Maduro administration wasn’t terribly happy about the meeting: “Venezuela is to be respected, we are Mercosur’s president and we will fully exercise our rights as such. Here we will wait for you, here we will face you and here we will defeat you. You won’t mess with Venezuela,” said Maduro in a speech. What happens now on is uncertain.

Mercosur is a regional trade bloc established in 1991 comprising member states Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Paraguay, Uruguay and Venezuela. It focuses mainly on developing economic measures aimed at promoting free trade and market union.