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Mercosur Confirms Negotiations to Make Ecuador a Member

05/06/2013 - 11h02

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ISABEL FLECK
FROM SÃO PAULO

Uruguay, the temporary president of Mercosur, confirmed yesterday that Ecuador has begun negotiations to become a member of the bloc.

The movement occurs amid uncertainties regarding the return of Paraguay, a founder of the bloc.

Since Paraguay was suspended in June 2012, Mercosur has formalized Venezuela as its member and Bolivia signed the protocol of accession in December - only the confirmation of the other members' congresses is needed to become an official member.

"Uruguay, as Mercosur's 'pro tempore' president, fully agrees and commemorates Ecuador's decision to begin negotiations of the protocol of accession to become a full member of the bloc," Uruguay's Foreign Affairs Department said in a statement.

Consulted by Folha, Brazil's Foreign Affairs Ministry confirmed that negotiations with Ecuador are ongoing.

Brazilian diplomats say Uruguay's public statement is likely to be in response to President Rafael Correa's announcement on May 4 that he would begin negotiations for the protocol of accession.

Alan Marques/Folhapress
President Dilma with President of Ecuador Rafael Correa and Cristina Kischner,from Argentina, during a Mercosur meeting in Brasilia.
President Dilma with President of Ecuador Rafael Correa and Cristina Kischner,from Argentina, during a Mercosur meeting in Brasilia.

Ecuador is currently an associate member of the bloc, such as Bolivia, Chile, Peru and Colombia. Uruguay stated that "this is a major step towards the integration of Latin America, intended to guarantee the national processes to strengthen democracy, development and social inclusion."

Paraguay was suspended in June after Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay decided that there had been a "breach in democracy" in Paraguay after the rapid impeachment of Fernando Lugo.

The presidential elections held on April 21 were set as an important precondition to certify the return of democracy in Paraguay and ensure its return to the bloc.

However, government sources say that, after Horacio Cartes's victory, Brazil believes Paraguay's return will occur only after its Senate approves the inclusion of Venezuela.

In a speech on television, Correa said Ecuador's goal is to become a member of Mercosur after it closes a commercial agreement with the European Union.

"The negotiations to enter Mercosur will take from eight to ten months, and we expect to have closed the agreement with the EU by then," said Correa.

Brazil's Foreign Affairs Ministry is preparing to receive the president of Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro, in Brasilia on May 9. The government, however, hasn't confirmed his visit yet.

Translated by THOMAS MUELLO

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