Paraguay and the Politics of International Organizations

July 5, 2012

The fallout from Mercosur’s suspension of Paraguay continues to have aftershocks and provides some insights into the political and diplomatic struggles and fractures within the organization. First, Uruguay’s Foreign Minister Luís Almagro said that Brazil had really forced the issue of Venezuela’s admission into the trading bloc, and that the approval of Argentina, Brazil, and Uruguay was “not the last word.” Brazil and Argentina countered that the move was “unanimously” supported by all three countries, and Uruguay backtracked a bit by saying that it has supported Venezuela’s inclusion but that the issue was an ongoing “negotiation.” While that stance does not necessarily support Almagro’s original claim, that hasn’t stopped Uruguayan President José Mujica from publicly supporting Almagro. Even while that fire was put out, Uruguayan Vice President Danilo Astori described Mercosur’s suspension of Paraguay as “a major institutional blow” to the organization. Certainly, there is a lot of rhetoric here, and each country has its own reasons to disclose and/or spin certain parts of the process of Venezuela’s admission/Paraguay’s suspension. It is not necessarily clear here what exactly happened, but what is emerging is a picture where the relations between members of Mercosur are strained, and there are very real fractures between the member countries within the trading bloc, something that could effectively reduce the economic and diplomatic functions of the bloc going forward.

And of course, this is all just the fallout from Mercosur, the first international organization to act against Paraguay, but possibly not the last. The Organization of American States wrapped up its investigative visit to Paraguay Yesterday, Secretary General José Miguel Insulza met with ousted president Fenando Lugo, who said he expects the OAS to expel Paraguay. Insulza is expected to provide his report to the OAS’s Permanent Council early next week. How the OAS acts matters for a variety of reasons, including the fact that the United States has said it will wait for the OAS’s report before determining what actions to take and/or statements to issue regarding the hasty removal of Lugo through what were at best questionable uses of the impeachment process  nearly two weeks ago.

Nor is the fallout strictly in terms of international relations. Brazil’s center-right Partido da Social Democracia Brasileira (Part of Brazilian Social Democracy; PSDB) used the international tensions to go after center-left President Dilma Rousseff of the Partido dos Trabalhadores (Workers Party; PT), saying Rousseff’s policies and administration had turned Mercosur “into a merely ideological block with no economic results for any of the member countries.” Regardless of what one thinks of Rousseff, it is hard to place all of the failings or successes of an international trading bloc on one person, but the PSDB’s comments do show how the international tensions erupting out of Paraguay’s decision to speedily remove Lugo from office two weeks ago are filtering down into domestic politics in the region.

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  1. July 5, 2012 at 11:29 | #1

    Colin, this is an interesting post. One question, I have is what are the short-term consequences of Paraguay being out of Mercosur, especially for the Brazilian agro industry, which depends on low tariffs for exporting soy abroad?

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