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Sunday, February 25, 2024

Cuba is present at the Mercosur Summit in Argentina this weekend

By Yvon Lacroix

 CSMS Magazine Staff WriterMercosur, an organization created since 1991 to promote trade between of South American countries, holds an important summit this weekend. Once again, Fidel Castro’s surprise visit to Argentina has stolen the show and has honored the induction of Venezuela into Mercosur, the highlight of talks that start Friday. “The addition gives the South American trade bloc a decidedly leftist tilt a decade after it emerged during a wave of pro-U.S. free trade sentiment,” confirmed the Associated Press.             Wearing his usual olive green military fatigues, it was to the cries of “Fidel! Fidel!” from well-wishers that the Cuban president slowly descended the airplane last Thursday behind police cordons at the airport in the central city of Cordoba. Fidel— whose trip was announced after he was airborne — made no public comments. Instead, he waved to the crowd before heading to a dinner of the visiting presidents.            The summit gives Cuba, Venezuela, and Bolivia, Latin America’s staunchest free trade critics a chance to meet with Argentina, Brazil and Chile in order to resolve some of their differences away from Washington’s influence. Among the differences was Morales’ abrupt nationalization of his country’s gas industry two months ago, a move that raised worries of energy shortages and price hikes for Bolivia’s biggest customers, Argentina and Brazil.            Last month, during a meeting in Venezuela, Paraguayan President Nicanor Duarte raised another source of problem: protectionist policies by Brazil and Argentina. That was behind Paraguay and Uruguay ‘s questioning of the benefits of Mercosur membership.            Chavez said that the summit is a beautiful display of leftist unity, a “fiesta of integration. Before flying to Cordoba, he dined with Argentine President Nestor Kirchner in Buenos Aires. Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula Da Silva arrived few minutes earlier.            Chavez met a group of local journalists to speak of the role of the summit, pledging to use Venezuela’s oil wealth to bolster the once-sleepy customs union. But Lula made no comments as he boarded a black limousine that sped away. “We are entering a new stage of Mercosur,” Chavez said. “Imagine that … the incorporation of nearly 30 million Venezuelans into a southern common market, and the Venezuelan economy is one of the most vigorous today in the world.”             According to AP, Venezuela’s induction expands Mercosur beyond its beginnings in southernmost South America. It now includes all the continent’s largest economies — Brazil, Argentina and Venezuela — along with Paraguay and Uruguay. Morales and moderate leftist Chilean President Michelle Bachelet were attending as observers.            Fidel, who turns 80 on Aug. 13, does not travel as much as he used to. This was his first trip to Argentina since Kirshner’s 2003 inauguration. The city of Cordoba holds special significance for Fidel, for the central province of Argentina was the place where Ernesto “Che” Guevara grew up as a boy before giving up a future in medicine to join the Cuban revolution. In this 30th summit of Mercosur, a deal is expected to sign that will promote trade between their nations and Cuba, which has been for some time under a U.S. embargo.

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