Venezuela officially joined the the Mercosur regional trading bloc as a full member on Tuesday, nearly six years after Caracas first applied for membership in the South American grouping.
Venezuela was welcomed into the trading bloc by other full Mercosur nations, namely Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay, at a ceremony held in Brasilia. The bloc's associate members include Bolivia, Chile, Colombia and Peru.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who is seeking re-election in the October elections, was in Brasilia to attend the ceremony, marking his first official foreign trip after being diagnosed with cancer last year.
Chavez has been keeping a low profile ever since he underwent an initial surgery in Cuba on June 20, 2011 to remove a cancerous tumor in his pelvic area. Chavez, who has visited Cuba several times for treatment, now claims to have recovered fully, and is confident of winning the forthcoming elections despite his health problems.
After his country was welcomed into the regional trade bloc, Chavez said: "We have waited for this day for many years. This is our path, it is our project, a South American union."
Later, Brazilian foreign ministry said in a statement that "the incorporation of Venezuela alters the strategic positioning of the bloc, which will now extend from the Caribbean to the extreme south of the continent". Mercosur is currently "positioning itself as a global energy power in renewable and non-renewable resources."
Incidentally, Venezuela's inclusion in the regional trading bloc was made possible by the suspension of Paraguay in June over the impeachment of president Fernando Lugo, which most Mercosur members considered undemocratic and unfair. Before its suspension, Paraguay had been blocking Venezuela's inclusion in the trading bloc citing concerns about Chavez's democratic credentials.
by RTT Staff Writer
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