Amid all the regular tepid diplomatic language that is the norm in these types of meetings, President Mauricio Macri and his Brazilian counterpart Michel Temer, sent a clear message to Venezuela: get your act together or else. The heads of state said that they would not hesitate to kick Venezuela out of Mercosur if it doesn’t adhere to the bloc’s fiscal treaties.
“If it doesn’t meet the requirements, Venezuela will lose its status of permanent member,” Macri said.
The Argentine president went on to say that leaving aside these issues though, what is “more concerning is what’s going on with human rights” and the Venezuelan government’s restrictions to ongoing efforts at a recall vote for President Nicolás Maduro. “We will be closely following what is going on in Venezuela,” he said.
The heads of state signed numerous agreements that range from border integration and security to bilateral commerce to less predictable topics such as nuclear, defense and space cooperation.
Macri and Temer also pointedly avoided taking a stance on Colombia’s failed referendum over the peace deal with the FARC. “We want a peaceful option in Colombia. Our desire is for there to be peace,” Temer said.
“We believe in peace, which Colombia will keep pursuing through different means. Peace is not only important for Colombians but for the region. Many people believe the deal is the way but there are others who also want peace but maybe in other terms,” agreed Macri.
Regarding the future of Mercosur, Macri assured that both countries will move forward as a bloc to reach trade deals with other blocs and countries: “we see that Mercosur is enormously appealing to the world. The European Union, Canada, Korea, Japan, Egypt. There are many countries asking us for free trade deals.”
In fact, in the joint press release issued after the meeting, both countries patted themselves in the back for the “increasingly tighter coordination process, especially regarding the negotiations about the association agreement between Mercosur and the European Union.”
Macri pointedly avoided answering a question about Brazil’s request to loosen Mercosur’s rules and allow countries reach bilateral agreements outside the bloc. “We believe that a strengthened Mercosur wll allow us to have a relationship with this globalized world in the best way possible,” he said. Temer was a bit more categorical saying that the Mercosur’s rules needed to be “a bit more flexible,” which is largely seen as code words for allowing countries to seal their own free-trade deals outside the confines of the trade bloc.
After signing numerous deals, Macri highlighted that the meeting “crowns months of work,” adding: “I feel really close to Brazil.”
However, there are many who don’t feel that close to the new President and let him know that during the entire length of his hours-long visit to the country. Members of different social organizations arrived to the Olivos residence this morning to protest against his presence, holding signs and throwing fake rats made with steel wool into the premises. The main protest, organized by Coletivo Passarinho, took place in Plaza de Mayo and the motto “Buenos Aires escracha [exposes] Temer, Brazil’s coup-monger President,” doesn’t leave much room to interpretation.