This year has been difficult for Venezuela, and it may soon become more difficult. On Aug. 5, the presidents of Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay met on the sidelines of the Summer Olympics' opening ceremony in Rio de Janeiro to discuss suspending Venezuela from the Mercosur trade bloc. The three leaders agreed to give Caracas until Aug. 12 to comply with the customs union's requirements for full membership before making their final decision.
Venezuela became a member of Mercosur in 2012, but it has yet to meet several of the obligations attached to bloc membership, including a human rights standard and a trade and tariffs requirement. Its failure to comply with these rules has elicited opposition from Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay, but this did not stop Caracas from temporarily taking control of the bloc last month. Uruguay ceded presidency of the bloc July 30, and Venezuela declared itself leader — despite the rejections of Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay. According to the three states, Venezuela will be thrown out of the union altogether if it does not come into compliance with the organization's rules.
But expelling Venezuela may not be as easy as its opponents suggest, especially since Venezuela has Uruguay's backing. As a full Mercosur member, Uruguay has the power to veto Venezuela's ouster, and it has thus far stood against its fellow members' efforts to antagonize the government of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro. In fact, it was not so long ago that Brazil and Argentina considered Venezuela an ally themselves. But political upsets in both countries — the fall of Argentina's left with the election of President Mauricio Macri, and the ongoing impeachment process in Brazil against President Dilma Rousseff — have changed the attitudes of Mercosur's biggest actors. Buenos Aires and Brasilia now want to expand the customs union's trade deals with other countries and blocs, including the European Union. And as long as they view Venezuela as a barrier to that goal, they will continue to seek its removal from Mercosur.