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January 21, 2017
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Macri, Temer reiterate Venezuela ultimatum

President Mauricio Macri today met with his Brazilian counterpart Michel Temer, in the latter’s first official visit to Argentina as the new president of the neighbouring country.

After the meeting, both leaders held a press conference where they addressed the situation in Venezuela and in Colombia, where a national referendum held on Sunday rejected the landmark deal with FARC rebels reached last week.

Temer highlighted the “historical ties” between both nations and the similarities between his government and Macri’s administration. He underlined the need to join efforts to strengthen the Mercosur trade bloc and to relax rules “to give states a certain autonomy regarding their International relations.”

Macri underlined the “conviction of working together.” “We feel very close to Brazil besides our football rivalries,” he joked.

“In a globalised world filled with global challenges, strengthening the Mercosur will allow us to integrate better into the world,” the head of state affirmed.

Just before getting on the plane, Temer praised Macri — whose decision to publicly back the impeachment of Rousseff was a big boost for the Brazilian head of state during his first hours in charge — highlighting how the similarities between them would facilitate relations.

“Macri’s way of thinking is very similar to ours. I think we think the same way, and this will make many things easier,” said Temer in interviews that were published in the La Nación and Clarín dailies yesterday.

The presidents of the two Mercosur giants are both centre-right leaders that have replaced centre-left administrations which were in power for over a decade, although Macri did so after winning 2015’s elections while Temer’s rise to power was questioned by many on grounds of legality and legitimacy, as Brazil’s Congress impeached Rouseff for irregularities in the country’s budget.

Due to the controversy over Temer’s legitimacy, opposition political parties and social groups are planning to hold a protest at 6pm today at Plaza de Mayo, which Brazil newspapers claimed led Macri to reschedule the official meeting between the two to the presidential residence in Olivos to minimize potential problems.

When asked if he was worried about the protests planned against him today, the Brazilian president said was not at all bothered. “Here (in Brazil) we also have protests, it’s the fruit of democracy. I don’t have any problem with that,” he said.

The Brazilian leader arrived in the Jorge Newbery airport in Buenos Aires City aboard the Brazilian presidency’s Airbus A-319 plane, accompanied by Foreign Minister José Serra, and the ministers of Development, Industry, Commerce, Defence and other government officials. Foreign Minister Susana Malcorra received them at the airport, and the group is scheduled to travel for lunch in Olivos to discuss various bilateral issues.

In the afternoon, Temer will travel to Asunción, Paraguay where he is scheduled to meet with Paraguayan President Horacio Cartes, who has also backed him.

Macri and Temer have already met before, once during the Olympic Games this summer in Río de Janeiro, briefly during the G-20 conference in Hangzhou, China and during Temer’s inauguration in August.

Argentina is Brazil’s third largest trading partner, after China and the United States, while Brazil accounts as Argentina’s largest trading partner. In 2015, the bi-lateral trade balance between the two countries came to 23 billion dollars, after a decline in commerce over the last couple of years.

Mercosur and Venezuela

The two leaders are expected to discuss security and other issues involving the development of the over 1,200 kilometres of rivers and canals on the border between the two countries. They will brainstorm how to create policies that would benefit the residents of those regions, the government said. After their first meeting, they will then discuss regional and multilateral topics with the aim of “strengthening economic and commercial areas of the Mercosur bloc as well as its foreign relations. “

The internal situation in Venezuela is a topic that will most likely be touched upon, as both leaders have put pressure on its President Nicolás Maduro to accept a recall referendum on his administration be held this year. Last Month, the Venezuelan Electoral Council had delayed the planned referendum until next year after it said that certain conditions had to be met before it could be carried out. “We support that it is done this year. That is our proposal. If not, we will evaluate in the future what position we will take,” said Temer in the La Nación interview. Temer also warned that if Venezuela doesn’t fulfill its financial obligations to Mercosur they would move towards expelling the country from the bloc.

Another issue that the two South American leaders will look at is the commercial trade agreements that Mercosur is trying to make with other trading blocs such as the European Union. Temer and Macri are both seen as more willing to advance on these accords. Yet, Brazil at the same time wants to be given more freedom to sign bilateral agreements with other countries and regions. Serra recently admitted, for example, that while Mercosur is important, “it should be renegotiated, not to eliminate it, but to universalize relations with other countries.”

Many economic consultancy companies predict that Brazil may have reached the nadir of its recession, with the most optimistic forecasts predicting that it will grow by more than two percent in 2017.

Herald with DyN, Télam

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