Venezuela given full Mercosur membership
The South American trade bloc Mercosur on Friday elevated Venezuela to equal status with Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, and Paraguay.
The designation completes a series of status upgrades for Venezuela in Mercosur. It was named an associate member in 2004 and was elevated to 'special' member in December of 2005.
Argentine President Nestor Kirchner called the addition of Venezuela as a full member a 'historic' occasion. Oil-rich Venezuela has the third largest economy in South America, behind Brazil and Argentina.
For U.S. interests, the Mercosur meeting in Cordoba, Argentina was marked by a mix of participants whose relationships with the U.S. range from supportive to hostile.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez used the occasion to urge Mercosur partners to unite against the free market policies of the U.S., according to an Associated Press report.
Cuban leader Fidel Castro, who was at the meeting as an associate member of Mercosur, reportedly drew laughs when he remarked to Chavez, 'Hugo, I'm listening to you almost like a student.'
Meanwhile, Brazil's President Luis Lula da Silva called on members to bring Bolivia and perhaps other South American nations into Mercosur.
Mercosur now has full members with a combined population of 250 million and a combined output of $1 trillion in goods and services.