Remarks by the President of Argentina, Alberto Fernández, at the transfer of the pro tempore presidency of the regional bloc to Brazil, at the LXLL Mercosur Summit, in Misiones
by Alberto Ángel Fernández
Very well, in these last words, I would like to thank all those who have participated in this meeting, those who have reflected with us, and those who have raised their concerns, worries, and proposals with a view to the future. I would just like to make one comment, which I do not want to overlook, because we have not been unaware of the issue, which is the issue of Venezuela. I would like to recall that Argentina - since I assumed the presidency - left the Lima Group because we understood that there was a clear policy of interference in Venezuela, which was not going to solve the problems that Venezuelans had. The number of exiles that Venezuela has today is mainly the result of the economic sanctions that Venezuela has suffered. Therefore, from the very first moment, we tried to be part of the Contact Group and to sit with the Venezuelan parties to dialogue so that they could find a way out towards a better democracy and a better institutional framework for Venezuela. When the United Nations - through a report by Michelle Bachelet - questioned the treatment of human rights in Venezuela, we put together that report by Michelle Bachelet and then we worked so that the High Commissioner for Human Rights could establish an office in Caracas and work towards guaranteeing full respect for human rights in Venezuela. That was done. We resumed the dialogue through a meeting we had with President Macron and President Gustavo Petro in Paris, and from there, we sat the parties down again to continue the dialogue. Afterwards, there was an extended meeting, in the city of Bogota, if I am not mistaken, where this dialogue continued advancing. What has happened now with María Corina Machado is something that we take into account and that we are raising at the dialogue table, which is where we believe it should be raised. Because the problem in Venezuela should be solved by Venezuelans through dialogue among themselves, without other countries meddling in their internal affairs. If we guarantee, as President Abdo has rightly said, that it will be respecting institutionality and human rights, we are convinced that the best way to do it, dear President and friend, is by recovering the dialogue among Venezuelans. Today, Venezuelans are suffering a very difficult situation as a result of these sanctions, which we believe only hurt the Venezuelan people. That is why, when someone reproached the idea that President Lula had put forward a few days ago about the need to have a broader and more complete view of the Venezuelan conflict, I vindicated it because I believe that what I am telling is the true story. I particularly lived and saw how the problems were being overcome, and problems like this one appear - I am not going to deny that - but it seems to me that the place to raise it is at the dialogue table. It would be very auspicious if all those who disappeared from the dialogue table joined the Venezuelan dialogue table: Mexico, Colombia, Brazil, and us. If we genuinely want to help the Venezuelans, let us sit at that table so that they may return to dialogue and once again have the necessary guarantees to recover the fullness of their rights and the fullness of their institutional quality. I say this because I did these things as President of Argentina, not as President Pro Tempore of MERCOSUR. These are things that we should do as Presidents of our respective countries: to guarantee the independence and autonomy of each country and to call for dialogue when democracy or dialogue breaks down in those countries. For me, it is not an issue that went unnoticed; at that table, I raised the problem, dear Marito. At this point, for Argentina and for me personally, it is an immense honor to hand over the Pro Tempore Presidency of MERCOSUR to the sister Federative Republic of Brazil. On this occasion, I would like to emphasize that I am handing over the MERCOSUR Hammer symbol to a great President, to a dear friend, a friend dear to all Argentine men and women, Luis Ignacio Lula Da Silva. I understand, my dear friend, that in your hands lies the responsibility of leading this period of MERCOSUR with the conviction and political lucidity that I have always recognized and that has always characterized you. I want you to know, dear friend, that your challenges are our challenges, your decisions are our decisions, and I will support you with courage in the leadership of MERCOSUR during this next semester of 2023. This is your hammer.