By Alonso Soto and Lisandra Paraguassu
BRASILIA (Reuters) – Venezuela will be suspended from the Mercosur regional trade bloc as early as Friday for failing to meet membership requirements, a Brazilian official said, in the latest blow to the oil-producing country during a deep political and economic crisis.
According to the official, who asked for anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue, Mercosur understands that Venezuela failed to meet economic, human rights and immigration accords governing the group.
Mercosur’s other members are Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay and regional diplomatic heavyweight Brazil.
Earlier on Thursday, Reuters reported that three unidentified Brazilian officials expected Venezuela to be suspended from the bloc.
“Venezuela has not adopted all the membership rules and treaties it had promised,” one of those officials said. “Everything indicates that Venezuela will be suspended starting in December.”
An Argentine government source said later on Thursday that the decision would not happen until a Dec. 14 meeting of Mercosur foreign ministers.
Socialist-led Venezuela has said it will not leave Mercosur and has denounced what it calls a campaign by right-leaning Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay to expel it from the group.
Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez on Thursday said via Twitter that Venezuela had called on member countries to activate a mechanism for “resolutions of conflicts,” tweeting a complaint letter sent to Mercosur foreign ministers.
“Venezuela must be respected!” Rodriguez said on Twitter. “Officials who adhere to imperialist mandates will not win against our fatherland.”
The suspension would not carry any sanctions against Venezuela, but would sideline its government from bloc meetings and trade negotiations, the Brazilian officials said.
A suspension would also further isolate Venezuela as it struggles with food shortages and social unrest as its oil-dependent economy crumbles.
Brazil’s Foreign Ministry was not immediately available for comment.
Tensions within Mercosur reflect the changing political landscape of a region that has turned to conservative governments after years of domination by leftist leaders buoyed by a commodities boom.
Some Brazilian officials had considered delaying the suspension to avoid hampering Vatican-led negotiations to ease the political crisis in Venezuela, but they later dropped those plans, said another official.
Businesses in Brazil have complained that the presence of Venezuela, which joined the bloc in 2012, has delayed key trade and regulatory decisions.
“It’s a political decision that shows Mercosur countries trying to be in line with the global reality,” said Roberto Ticoulat, head of the Brazilian Council of Commercial Exporters and Importers. “Brazil needs to be part of global trade, and we can’t wait any longer.”
(Additional reporting by Maximiliano Rizzi in Buenos Aires, and Corina Pons and Alexandra Ulmer in Caracas; Editing by Daniel Flynn and Leslie Adler)