Dec. 8 (Bloomberg) — Mercosur, the South American trade bloc led by Brazil and Argentina, condemned the “illegitimate and illegal” elections in Honduras after the interim government and congress failed to restore ousted President Manuel Zelaya.
The bloc issued a statement noting “its strongest condemnation of the coup in Honduras” and saying it considers “the grave violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms against the Honduran people unacceptable.” The statement was signed today by the leaders of Argentina, Brazil, Venezuela, Uruguay and Paraguay at a Mercosur summit in Montevideo.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, speaking earlier, said the only resolution to the nearly six-month political crisis was to have new elections under Zelaya, who was deposed at gunpoint and forced out of Honduras in late June after the Supreme Court ruled his bid to change the constitution was illegal.
The crisis has divided Latin American nations from each other and the U.S. since Honduras held presidential elections last month, making it harder for U.S. President Barack Obama to improve ties with the country’s southern neighbors. The U.S., Panama and Costa Rica have said the elections should be recognized as a step toward restoring democracy.
“Illegitimate and Illegal”
“In light of the failure to restore President Jose Manuel Zelaya to the position for which he was democratically elected by the Honduran people, we want to express our total lack of recognition for the Nov. 29 elections held by the de facto government, which were undertaken in an unconstitutional, illegitimate and illegal atmosphere,” the statement said.
Porfirio Lobo, a 61-year-old cattle rancher from the National Party, won the election. The dispute has cost Honduras as much as $200 million in lost investment since Zelaya’s overthrow, according to Jesus Canahuati, vice president of the Business Council of Latin America in Honduras.
The country also lost more than $200 million in frozen international aid and loans.
Venezuela, which has been pursuing Mercosur membership for most of this decade, may win approval from Brazil as early as tomorrow, when the Brazilian Senate is due to vote on its membership, President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva said during the summit today. Chavez sparked laughter among the leaders by greeting the news with the Arabic phrase for “God willing.”
That would leave only Paraguay’s approval to complete the process.
The bloc said in a separate statement that it wants to accelerate talks with the European Union over a possible free- trade agreement. Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, who has the rotating leadership of Mercosur, said an accord could be reached as soon as May.
To contact the reporter on this story: Bill Faries in Montevideo, Uruguay at wfaries@bloomberg.
Last Updated: December 8, 2009 14:22 EST