Brazil Senate leader against Venezuela in Mercosur

BRASILIA, (Reuters) – Doubts over Venezuela’s  commitment to democracy and a market economy could hinder its  entry into the South American trade bloc Mercosur, the head of  Brazil’s Senate Foreign Relations Committee said yesterday.

Venezuela has been waiting for nearly four years to enter  the bloc — which includes Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and  Uruguay. But the congresses of Brazil and Paraguay have kept  postponing a vote.

“I’m personally against Venezuela’s entry,” Senator Eduardo  Azeredo, told Reuters, a day after being appointed chairman of  the foreign relations committee.

While Brazil and Paraguay have left-leaning governments  that are friendly with Venezuela’s socialist President Hugo  Chavez, opposition leaders in both countries say his country  does not comply with Mercosur’s democratic principles.

“Venezuela is on its way to becoming a totalitarian regime  — it doesn’t meet the democratic clause and its dedication to  a market economy is in doubt as well,” Azeredo said in an  interview. He said there were also technical problems with  Venezuela’s tariff proposals.

Chavez this week seized a unit of American food giant  Cargill and threatened to take over Venezuela’s largest private  company, after having already nationalized numerous steel, oil,  cement and power companies in recent years.

While President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva’s government  defended Chavez’s referendum victory in February allowing him  to stand for office indefinitely, opposition leaders saw it as  a further concentration of power that undermined democracy.

Chavez, a staunch U.S. critic, has fiercely criticized  Brazil’s Congress for delaying the vote on Venezuela’s Mercosur  entry, saying it was a puppet of Washington.

But Azeredo, of the opposition Brazilian Social Democracy  Party, said he had no intention to rush the vote.

“I’m in no hurry, I have no deadline. We will discuss both  sides of this issue.” While the government had a majority on the committee,  Azeredo said he was unsure how it would vote.

Jose Sarney, head of the Senate, is also critical of  Venezuela’s Mercosur entry but said last month he would not  block or hold up the vote.

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