Mercosur’s refusal to host Zelensky at its 60th Summit is yet further confirmation of Latin America’s largely neutral stance on the Ukraine conflict. The US is beginning to get worried.
On Wednesday (July 20) the president of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky, was denied the opportunity to give a speech at the 60th Summit of Presidents of Mercosur being held this week. Zelensky had asked Paraguayan president Mario Abdo, the host of this year’s summit, to let him address the South American trade bloc, which comprises the governments of Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay.
The bloc’s members failed to reach agreement on Zelensky’s request, said Paraguay’s deputy foreign minister Raul Cano. Zelensky has already addressed a number of national parliaments, including the UK’s House of Commons, the US Congress and the Australian parliament, since the war began. He has also spoken via video link at regional and international forums such as NATO, the G7, the World Economic Forum, the United Nations, the African Union and even the Cannes Film Festival.
Opposition Most Likely from Brazil and Argentina
But he was not welcome at Mercosur. Although Cano declined to disclose which states rejected Zelensky’s attendance at the event, it is not hard to guess their identity. After all, neither Brazil nor Argentina were willing to sign a February 25 Organization of American States (OAS) resolution condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine while the other two Mercosur members, Uruguay and Paraguay, did.
Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro was in Moscow meeting Putin just days before Russia’s invasion began. In the last month he has received assurances from Putin that Brazil would continue to receive Russian-produced fertilizers while he himself has pledged that Brazil will buy as much diesel from Russia as it can, despite international sanctions against Moscow. Argentina’s President Alberto Fernández was also in Russia in early February, where he held discussions with Putin about the possibility of Russia extending a loan to Argentina.
Most Latin American countries have tried to strike a neutral stance on the Russia-Ukraine conflict. They include the region’s two heavyweight economies, Brazil and Mexico, which together account for roughly 60% of the region’s GDP. While both countries voted to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine at the March 2 emergency meeting of the United Nations, they have lambasted the US-NATO-led push to isolate Russia from the global economy.
Both countries are currently non-permanent members of the UN Security Council. Brazilian diplomats already tried to lever their position on the Security Council to soften the language of a council resolution condemning the actions of Russia’s President Vladimir Putin.
On Monday, Bolsonaro had a phone call with Zelensky, as the Brazilian Report reveals:
In a tweet, Mr. Zelensky said he informed Mr. Bolsonaro about the situation on the front. “[I] discussed the importance of resuming Ukraine’s grain exports to prevent a global food crisis provoked by Russia. I call on all partners to join the sanctions against the aggressor.”
The Brazilian Foreign Affairs Ministry published a Twitter thread about the talk between Presidents Zelensky and Bolsonaro, but no official communiqué. The ministry did not publicly touch on the subject of grain exports but focused on humanitarian assistance to Ukranian refugees.
“The president conveyed the solidarity of the Brazilian people and deeply regretted the human and material losses caused by the conflict. Brazil has been granting humanitarian visas to people affected by the conflict in Ukraine,” the tweet adds.
“Brazil, which holds the presidency of the UN Security Council in July, aims, during its mandate, to promote dialogue, to contribute to the end of the conflict. Brazil will remain in a position of concerning the conflict,” the message continued.
Mexico has also refused to fall into line despite concerted pressure from its direct neighbor to the north and largest trading partner…
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