Venezuela suspended from Mercosur

Trade group revokes Venezuela’s membership over its failure to comply with Mercosur’s democratic principles.

Mercosur suspends Venezuela
Venezuelan Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez described Friday's suspension as a coup attempt [EPA]

South American regional economic group Mercosur has notified Caracas that Venezuela’s membership has been suspended for violating the bloc’s democratic principles.

 Fast facts

Mercosur is a sub-regional bloc comprising Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay.

Bolivia, Chile, Peru, Colombia, Ecuador and Suriname are associate members.

Following the impeachment of President Fernando Lugo by the Paraguayan Senate, this country was suspended from Mercosur.

The purpose of the bloc is to promote free trade and the fluid movement of goods, people, and currency.

It is currently seeking to sign a free trade deal with the European Union.

Founding members Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay reached the decision to revoke the Mercosur membership of Venezuela, which is in the midst of an economic collapse despite holding the world’s largest oil reserves.

Venezuelan Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez described Friday’s suspension as a coup attempt.

She rejected the notion that Venezuela had failed to conform to the trade group’s rules.

“Venezuela does not recognise the null action carried out under the law of the jungle taken by the officials who are destroying Mercosur,” she said.

Venezuela had been a full member since 2012 in Mercosur, which calls itself the common market of the South.

In September, Mercosur issued a three-month deadline for Socialist President Nicolas Maduro to restore human rights and press freedoms in Venezuela.

Venezuela is mired in a political and economic crisis as a newly empowered opposition tries to wrest power from Maduro amid widespread shortages of food and medicine.

Earlier in the week, Venezuela’s opposition coalition threatened to walk away from ongoing dialogue with the government.

The Vatican-mediated talks were intended to head off a growing political crisis as critics of Maduro allege he has become a dictator and call for him to resign.

Venezuela has arrested hundreds of opposition activists in recent years and stifled opposition media. A local human rights group counts 100 political prisoners still in jail. This autumn, the government killed an effort to stage a recall referendum against Maduro.

Soaring inflation

In a separate development Maduro said on Friday that Venezuela would issue higher denomination bills “very soon” as soaring inflation and a crumbling currency leave the crisis-stricken country’s largest note worth just 2 US cents on the black market.

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Still, the long-awaited entry of 500 and 5,000 bolivar notes will only bring a brief respite amid rapid money printing and a weakening currency.

Today 5,000 bolivars buy just over $1 on the black market, which exists because Venezuela introduced currency controls in 2003 but does not offer enough dollars to meet demand.

Venezuela is believed to have the world’s highest inflation, although no data has been published for 2016.

Money supply rose 12 percent in the past two weeks while the bolivar weakened 65 percent in the past month.

As a result, Venezuelans often carry backpacks full of bills and cash machines frequently run dry owing to long queues.

“Several million bills of 500 bolivars and then several million bills of 5,000 bolivars will enter circulation very soon,” Maduro said in a televised address, noting that the central bank would provide details on Sunday and Monday.

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Source: News Agencies