Mercosur didn’t waste any time. The South American trade group warned that it would suspend Venezuela’s membership if it didn’t improve human rights and immigration conditions by December 1st. On December 2nd, Mercosur did in fact suspend Venezuela, according to the AP Press. The move came after the country failed to meet the standards it agreed to comply with upon joining in 2012.
However, despite the unanimous decision from Mercosur’s four founding members—Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay—the Venezuela government plans to fight back. President Nicolas Maduro has already threatened to take the matter to international authorities, stating that the decision was “a coup d’état." Yet the country is unlikely to receive much sympathy in a world that is quickly veering toward the right.
When Venezuela joined Mercosur, South America was dominated by left-wing governments. But much has changed since 2012—Argentina and Brazil elected centrist leaders, and the country’s regional influence has declined since it began cutting back on oil shipments. And without the support of its neighbors, Venezuela is vulnerable to further punitive action from other nations. The Organization of American States has already debated suspending the country from the hemispheric body due to its growing authoritarianism, and some U.S. Congress members have suggested imposing economic sanctions.
Venezuela crashes the party
Yet the country shows no sign of backing down. Venezuela’s Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez didn’t let lack of an invitation keep her from attending a Mercosur meeting in Buenos Aires on December 15th. When she arrived to find the meeting room empty, she accused the Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay of colluding against her country. (The meeting of foreign ministers took place in a different, smaller room.)
Argentine Foreign Minister Susana Marcorra later told BBC News that the organization ultimately allowed Rodriguez to join the meeting “because we all agreed that we did not want the situation to escalate into something bigger.” She also said that the suspension would be overturned if Venezuela complied with Mercosur’s requirements. Venezuela claims it has incorporated all the regulations except ones that conflict with its domestic laws.
Running out of options
The country has obviously taken a bold stance given catastrophic its shortages of food, medicine, and other essentials. Meanwhile, protests and waning support for President Maduro have only led to more human rights violations. Authorities have jailed hundreds of activists in recent years and suppressed opposition media.
At present, Venezuela seems to be locked in a vicious cycle of shortages, protests, and government crack downs, and the loss of its closest trading partners will only exacerbate this. If the socialist nation is to recover, it must improve its human rights record and restore relations with its fellow South Americans.