Jennifer Keck

Guest Blogger

Jennifer Keck is a writer with a passion for foreign policy. She is particularly interested in US-Latin America relations, with an expertise in Mexico and Argentina. She speaks fluent Spanish and is working on her French. She lives in New York, New York.

Mercosur Suspends Venezuela’s Membership

Venezuela, Human Rights, Mercosur, Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uraguay

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

Mercosur to Suspend Venezuela over Human Rights Record?

Venezuela, South America, Mercosur, Human Rights, European Union

Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami famously wrote, “Hell has no true bottom.” And Venezuela may be proof. As the country continues its downward economic spiral, it now faces pressure from Mercosur to meet the organization’s human rights and immigration standards. The South American trade bloc warned that Venezuela’s membership will be suspended if it fails to meet the December 1st deadline to improve conditions, Bloomberg reported. (Upon joining in 2012, the country agreed to the four-year timeline to meet all the requirements.)

In June, Caracas was set to assume the bloc’s rotating presidency, but leading members Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay filled the role using an interim team from other states in order to “preserve and strengthen Mercosur,” the ministers said. It was an early warning sign that Venezuela was on shaky ground with its trading partners.

The decline in global commodity prices has led Mercosur to seek out new ties with other trade blocs—including the European Union, which evaluates the human rights records of potential partners. Given Venezuela’s increasing political turmoil, the oil-rich nation is quickly becoming a liability. 

“The European Union has condemned Venezuela for human rights violations. So (Venezuelan President Nicolas) Maduro isn’t exactly the best face for Mercosur to have right now,” Roberto Moritan, a former deputy foreign minister in Argentina, told The Wallstreet Journal.

Solar Power’s Surprising Win in Chile

Chile, Spain, Dubai, solar energy, renewable energy, climate change

Chile has officially debunked the argument that coal is cheaper than solar.

Solarpack Corp. Technologica, a Spanish developer, won contracts to sell solar power for $29.10 per megawatt-hour at an energy auction in August, the lowest price ever. Not only does this beat out the deal in Dubai from last May, it went for almost half the price of coal at the same event. Chilean solar power is now at one of the lowest rates for any kind of electricity anywhere, according to Solarpack General Director Inigo Malo de Molina.

“Solar energy technology has evolved and proved it is competitive,” Molina told Bloomberg in a telephone interview from Santiago. “Prices for electricity generation have changed drastically in the last years. Solar energy in Chile is now the cheapest in the market.”

From Energy Crisis to Energy Abundance

It’s an amazing turn-around, given the county’s recent energy woes. Just five years ago, Chile’s energy prices were among the highest in Latin America. A few monopolistic utility companies dominated the sector, and Argentina had stopped selling natural gas to its neighbor. Facing the risk of blackouts, the private sector planned to open more coal-burning power plants and build hydroelectric dams that would have flooded Patagonia.