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LatinNews Regional Monitor: Brazil & Southern Cone - 14 February 2019

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URUGUAY: Vázquez hosts Macri and finds common ground

On 13 February, Uruguay’s President Tabaré Vázquez held a private meeting with his Argentine counterpart, Mauricio Macri, after which the two issued a joint statement calling for the staging of “free and credible” elections in Venezuela and for the flexibilization of the Southern Common Market (Mercosur).

Analysis:

The fact that Vázquez and Macri could agree on a joint statement on these two issues is a boon for Vázquez. The Vázquez administration is one of the few governments in Latin America that continues to recognise Nicolás Maduro as Venezuela’s legitimate president putting it at odds with rest of Mercosur (Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay) which has now recognised Juan Guaidó as interim president and has been pressuring Maduro to resign. Having found common ground with Macri over Venezuela and Uruguay’s long-held desire to make Mercosur more flexible allows Vázquez to show that his administration has not been isolated by its neighbours as result of its stance over Venezuela, as the political opposition in Uruguay has claimed.

  • Macri’s scheduled visit to Uruguay was expected to be tense over the two government’s differing stances on the Venezuelan crisis. Macri is among Maduro’s most vocal detractors branding him a “dictator” and pushing for his ouster and the establishment of a transitional government that would lead Venezuela into a new free, fair, and transparent presidential election as a way to resolve the Andean country’s deep political crisis. But the leftist Frente Amplio (FA) coalition government led by Vázquez has adopted a “neutral” stance over the crisis in Venezuela acknowledging that there is a humanitarian and political crisis in the country but denouncing the attempts by Guaidó and his international supporters to topple what it still considers to be a legitimate government.
  • However, after a short private meeting between Vázquez and Macri, in which they went over the bilateral and regional agenda, they issued a four-point joint statement. In the statement both called for “a democratic solution via free, credible and internationally observed elections in Venezuela”; agreed to promote the modernisation of Mercosur, including exploring the possibility of allowing member countries to sign individual trade agreements with third countries (a long-held Uruguayan demand); agreed to continue promoting bilateral economic and trade relations; and agreed to hold periodic meetings to evaluate the progress made on the agreed points.
  • The release of the joint statement came as a group of opposition legislators presented a motion in Uruguay’s national congress calling for the government to demand the immediate holding of “free and transparent” elections in Venezuela, as well as the release of all political prisoners. The motion was presented after Vázquez’s foreign minister, Rodolfo Nin Novoa, defended the government’s stance on Venezuela while being grilled by opposition legislators.

Looking Ahead: Vázquez’s joint statement with Macri allows the former to show that his government’s position on Venezuela is not affecting Uruguay’s international standing, drawing some of the sting of criticisms by the opposition and boosting the FA’s image ahead of the October general election.