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Mercosur: South America´s trade bloc suspends Venezuela on democracy concerns

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Uruguayan Chancellor Rodolfo Nin Novoa

Mercosur (South American Trade Association) suspended Venezuela indefinitely on Saturday,  for failing to uphold democratic norms amid an intensifying crackdown of Maduro´s regime on dissent in the South American country.

Mercosur previously suspended Venezuela last December, for failing to uphold regulatory commitments President Maduro made when it joined the group in 2012.

The suspension will have little practical effect, with no economic sanctions or changes to trade or migration, and the bloc said it would try to limit any possible impact on Venezuelans to avoid exacerbating the humanitarian crisis in the country.

Uruguayan Foreign Relations Minister Rodolfo Nin Novoa said that everything possible was done to try a channel of dialogue in Venezuela, but finally they had no choice but to vote in favor of applying the Democratic Clause provided in the Ushuaia Protocol.

“It is a vote in favor of the Venezuelan people so that the people can enjoy freedom, rights and democracy,” said Uruguayan Chancellor Rodolfo Nin Novoa.

Brazilian Foreign Minister Aloysio Nunes, for instance, said Venezuelans remain welcome in Brazil. Venezuelans routinely cross into the continent’s largest nation in search of food and other basic supplies amid shortages back home.

Instead, Nunes said the move would have a “political effect.”

The new suspension will also make it harder for Venezuela to return to good standing since it can be lifted only when the bloc is satisfied that democratic order has been restored.

Meeting in Sao Paulo, Mercosur foreign ministers said the move was meant to send a message to their South American neighbor, which is in the throes of a deepening political and economic crisis.

“Today in Venezuela there is no democracy,” Argentine Foreign Minister Jorge Faurie told reporters after meeting with his counterparts from Brazil, Uruguay and Paraguay. “Essentially what Mercosur is saying is: Without democracy, no, you cannot be a part of Mercosur.”

The suspension was widely expected, and Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro criticized the decision even before it became fact.