Venezuela’s Maduro Tours Southern Cone, Urges Cooperation

After signing nine new bilateral agreements with Uruguayan president Jose Mujica, Venezuela's president Nicolas Maduro became the first foreign head of state to visit Montevideo's national trade union centre.

Yesterday morning, Maduro told Uruguayan press that the purpose of the visit was to “ratify and strengthen ties in fields such as energy, trade and agribusiness”.

However, during his visit he also indicated that he hoped that “financial and monetary” cooperation between the two South American nations would be increased.

After meeting with Mujica, Maduro joined the Uruguayan head in a visit to the Plenario Intersindical de Trabajadores – Convención Nacional de Trabajadores (PIT-CNT).

With over 300,000 members, the PIT-CNT represents roughly 25% of the country's unionised workforce, the organisation’s general coordinator Fernando Pereira said in 2010.

The workers' organisation has existed in its current form since 1985, after its predecessor the PIT was banned by the government. 18 council members of another of its predecessors, the CNT, were “disappeared” under the military government in the 1970's.

Describing the visit of the first foreign head of state as a “great honour”, Pereira told Maduro that he has the “support” of the PIT-CNT.

Hitting back at criticism from some sectors of the Uruguayan opposition who opposed the visit, Pereira described Maduro as “not only a worker, but also elected by his people in a legitimate way.”

Speaking at the PIT-CNT centre in Montevideo, Maduro stated that the “strengthening” of coordination between revolutionaries in South America as one of the most important “tasks of the new period”.

Second Day of Maduro's Southern Cone Tour

Montevideo was Maduro's first stop on a regional tour of the Southern Cone. Today he arrived in Argentina, where he met with President Cristina Kirchner Fernádez.

The two leaders inked a number of agreements relating to trade and finance, including the ratification of the partnership between Petróleos de Venezuela (PDVSA) and Argentina's Pampaco.

In both Uruguay and Argentina, Maduro has discussed the significance of his nation's entry into the Southern Common Market (Mercosur), describing the trade bloc as becoming a “powerful magnet …for economic union.”

Argentine foreign minister Hector Timerman, told media today that Venezuela's entry into Mercosur  last year was a “great success” for the continent. Venezuela became a full member of the trade bloc last June, on the same day that Paraguay was suspended following a U.S. backed coup.

Yesterday, Mujica said he expects Venezuela's membership will promote “more stability and more affinity” within Mercosur.

Venezuelan opposition leader Henrique Capriles has criticised the tour, describing it as a “desperate” attempt to shore up regional support.

In the final leg of his trip, Maduro will visit Brazil tomorrow. 

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