THE NEW YORK TIMES (US),  FOLHA DE SAO PAULO (Brazil), BBC NEWS (UK),

BRASILIA –  Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez has ratified the entry of his country into South American trading bloc Mercosur, a boost to both his reelection chances and the economic influence of the free-trade bloc.

Chavez was welcomed to Brazil on Tuesday by President Dilma Rousseff and the leaders of the other full members of Mercosur, including Argentina's Cristina Kirchner and Uruguay's Jose Mujica.

The adhesion of Venezuela into Mercosur was made possible because of Paraguay's temporary suspension in June over the impeachment of President Fernando Lugo, reports BBC news. Since 2006, Paraguay had blocked Venezuela's entry because of concerns about Chavez's democratic credentials.

"This sets a terrible example for the region," Elsa Cardozo, a professor of political science at Central University in Venezuela, told The New York Times. "It reveals Mercosur's political weakness at a time of precarious protection of democratic rights in Venezuela."

A few hours before sealing his country's entry into the bloc, Chavez's signed a separate agreement to buy 20 airplanes manufactured by Brazilian company Embraer in a deal potentially worth $900 million.

Chavez also revealed that Venezuela may export oil to its new South American economic partners in return. The Brazilian company Petrobras and the Venezuelan state oil company PDVSA are currently engaged in a dragged out negotiation for the joint construction of a refinery in the Brazilian state of Pernambuco, reports Folha de São Paulo.

Brazil and Venezuela are expected to strengthen their economic ties as Venezuela's entry into Mercosur will mean a huge new market for Brazilian export goods, especially food and energy.

Mr Chavez, who is seeking re-election in October, hopes to build on his country's admission into the trading bloc to boost his country's economy and enhance regional trade (see video below).

With Venezuela, Mercosur will represent 83.2 % of South America's GDP and a market of 270 million people, making the trading bloc the world's fifth largest economy.

The country will officially become a member of Mercosur on August 12. The adhesion process is expected to last until 2016 as the country still needs to adjust to Mercosur rules and regulations.

PSUV party leaders celebrate the country's entry in the trading bloc on Venezuelan TV channel Tele-Sur.


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