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Venezuela expected to be suspended from Mercosur regional trade bloc

Venezuela is expected to be suspended from Mercosur for failing to meet economic, human rights and immigration accords governing the group. The South American country is under severe political and economic pressure.

In the latest move against the socialist government in Venezuela, members of the regional trade bloc Mercosur are expected to announce that bloc membership for the oil-rich country is to be suspended, perhaps as soon as Friday. 

Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay and Brazil are the other full members of the regional bloc while Bolivia, Chile, Peru, Colombia, Ecuador and Suriname are associate countries. New Zealand and Mexico are observer countries. The bloc promotes free transit of produced goods, a common trade and external tariff policy, but there are also reciprocal rights and obligations between member states.

"Venezuela has not adopted all the membership rules and treaties it had promised," one of three, unidentified Brazilian officials told Reuters. "Everything indicates that Venezuela will be suspended starting in December." The next meeting of Mercosur foreign ministers is on December 14.

A suspension would not carry any sanctions against Venezuela but would sideline its government from bloc meetings and trade negotiations, the Brazilian officials said.

Businesses in Brazil have complained that Venezuela's membership since 2012 has caused the delay of key trade and regulatory decisions.

Venezuela staying put

The government of President Nicolas Maduro has said it will not leave Mercosur. It condemned what it described as a campaign by right-leaning Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay to expel it from the group.

Venezuelan Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez said on Thursday that Venezuela had called on member countries to activate a mechanism for "resolution of disputes." 

In August, the presidents of Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay met to discuss suspending Venezuela from Mercosur - with doubts expressed that the Maduro government was complying with the union's requirements for full membership, especially in relation to human rights.

Last month, Uruguayan president Tabare Vazquez warned that Venezuela would lose its right to vote in Mercosur from December if it did not ratify the bloc's regional agreements. "The four founding members of Mercosur agreed a couple of months ago to give Venezuela until December 2 for it to incorporate the agreements it signed in Mercosur."

Shortly before Vazquez spoke, Paraguayan Foreign Minister Eladio Loizaga had said that from December, Venezuela would be suspended and "without a voice" in Mercosur and that it would continue thus until it ratified the commitments it had to fulfill as an "associate state" of the group.

jm/gsw (Reuters, EFE, AP)

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