The Paraguay MERCOSUR fiasco: the loser list
Once again we are reminded that today presidential systems are the least suitable systems of government for our countries, even though none of Latin America countries have dared try a parliamentary democracy to prove me right or wrong. Our distasteful and dysfunctional "presidential institution" has become even more of a burden in an age where media reigns sovereign and is not afraid to manipulate everything, from opinion to outcomes. As such we get phenomena like Chavez or skillful manipulators like the Kircheners and even Lula or Uribe.
What happened in Paraguay, regardless of the merits or demerits of the case, is that Lugo was elected on a coalition and he lost the support of that coalition. In a parliamentary system there is no problem, the prime minister is replaced by a new coalition, and in some cases the "ousted" prime minister is allowed to call early elections to prove that his support goes beyond the original coalition. But in a presidential system the guy is elected for a fixed number of years and losing the support basis leads straight to a political crisis that needs to be resolved by other ways than early elections. It always ends up as a traumatic process as many presidents had been ousted, often though unconventional means. Ecuador and Venezuela in the last two decades offer many such examples of presidential crisis without peaceful or legal resolution. But other examples can be found if you dig deeper, in Bolivia, Argentina, and Brazil.
In short, if Paraguay had been a parliamentary system I would not be writing this post today: Lugo would have been replaced without trouble, or early elections would have been called and voilà.
That Latin America lacks solid institutions is our recurring curse. Even supranational ones are shaky at best, ready to crumble at the first push. MERCOSUR did crumble last week.
If the ousting of Lugo was unseemingly speedy, the ousting of Paraguay from MERCOSUR was even faster!
When you consider the intense debate in the European Community whether to keep Greece inside the Union, or remove her outright from the Euro, or accept new countries, you realize that MERCOSUR decisions are really a personal decisions of the presidents, that countries in fact have not much of say on that matter. For example in Brazil and Uruguay there are already significant criticisms as to the speed in which Paraguay was bumped, even if provisionally, and in which the opportunity was taken by the other 3 countries to include Venezuela, regardless of the legal consequences that this may imply if and when Paraguay returns.
I am not here considering the implications of the Ushuaia protocols of MERCOSUR on the respect of democratic rules and Human Rights that Venezuela does not fulfill and that Paraguay as far as I know keeps fulfilling: Lugo might be ousted but he is alive and well and allowed to create further trouble at Asuncion. If MERCOSUR were a serious institution the ousting of Paraguay and the welcome of Venezuela should have NEVER been the matter of a presidential meeting alone, within scarce days of the events. By all means the ousting of one and inclusion of the other should not be linked. The least we would have expected from a serious institution is that in Mendoza the three remaining MERCOSUR president would have called a special meeting, a week later, to discus the incorporation of Venezuela in regards of the events of Paraguay, giving further time to Paraguay to put its act together or else.
In other words, Roussef, Kirchner and Mujica have shown utter contempt for the rules of MERCOSUR and have done what was convenient politically for their aims, namely to include Venezuela before the October election to make sure that whoever is elected president will have to abide by all the corrupt contracts passed between MERCOSUR and the Chavez regime. Period.
The prospects for MERCOSUR future are dim because now every country in LatAm, every government knows that the rules of MERCOSUR count for nothing when the will of its main players is crossed. It is just as if Germany would decide on its own to kick out Greece, Spain and Italy..... Who wants to join such a club? Who wants to stay in such a club? That is, will Chile want to fully integrate MERCOSUR now? Will Paraguay want to come back inside now that Argentina and Brazil have shown utter contempt for its consistently expressed position?
DILMA ROUSSEF AND BRAZIL
I cannot tell you how disappointed I am in Dilma Roussef. For someone who was "in touch" with Human Rights, who put some distance between Brazil and Iran, this decision to include Venezuela and oust Paraguay without any polite proceeding means that she has evolved enough in her position that she has become as cynical as Lula was. Amen of becoming a mere representative of Brazil's traditional imperialism towards the rest of South America.
Brazil must also count itself as a major loser in this story as the coveted permanent seat in the UN security council is pushed further away. A country that reacts so sanguinely or mercurially to events in what is supposed to be its own sphere of influence cannot be trusted for the major league of planetary decisions. Maybe Roussef does not know that, but 3 of the permanent security members, the US, the UK and France are used to complex regional groups and alliances (NATO, EU, NAFTA, Commonwealth, Francophonie, etc...). They cannot be put at ease at the way in which Brazil manages its own treaties. I dare say that even China and Russia may be surprised at the speedy decisions of Dilma.
Venezuela is also a loser, but not right yet. If indeed Chavez manages to enter MERCOSUR (and create havoc inside as he is bound to do with anything he touches) the consequences will be terrible for us.
First, forget about applying the Ushuaia agreements on Human Rights on Venezuela. MERCOSUR has basically waived that protection now, killing the most positive aspect MERCOSUR had for Venezuela. This also means by the way that all MERCOSUR countries have written themselves a license to violate Ushuaia as of this week.
Second, Venezuela economic recovery after Chavez years will require a dose of protectionism for maybe as long as half a decade. With our entry in MERCOSUR this is not possible anymore and Venezuela will simply become the oil provider and goods purchaser to Brazil and Argentina. A colony if you wish.
PD: I did not include Cristina Kirchner because she is already totally discredited. Thus, what else could she lose.
Update: rumor is that the entry of Venezuela was promoted by Dilma who worked her colleagues behind. Losed doors, without any staff at hand.