Venezuelan Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro welcomed the proposal that the current crisis with Colombia be addressed at the Mercasur trade talks, but added that the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) should ultimately deal with the issue, reports Caracol Radio.
The foreign minister of Paraguay, Hector Lacognata, suggested the Mercasur summit be used as a venue for discussion of the issue, saying that the forum “should play a leading role for the opening of dialogue between both countries, so that their relationships can be normalized.”
Argentine Foreign Minister Hector Timerman earlier said that the issue could be discussed in “informal conversations” held on the fringes of this week’s gathering.
A special UNASUR meeting was held in Quito, Ecuador last week to attempt to address Colombian allegations that Venezuela is harboring Colombian leftist guerrillas, but no agreement was reached.
Speaking at the Mercosur meeting in San Juan, Argentina, Maduro said that the ongoing armed conflict in Colombia was “the only war that persists in South America,” and claimed that it has forced 800,000 Colombians to emigrate to Venezuela.
“We have had 60 years of war plaguing Colombia. We suffer the derivations of the paramilitaries. We are victims of drug trafficking groups that have forced us to triple the investment of military presence along the border,” Maduro said.
Mercosur is a regional trade agreement between Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay. Venezuela is in the process of joining but has yet to have its application ratified.
The Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) is an intergovernmental union involving Mercosur and the Andean Community of Nations (CAN), of which Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru are members.