Venezuela to join South American trade bloc

Montevideo – In December, Venezuela will become a permanent member of the South American trade bloc Mercosur, a move likely to strengthen the group and serve as a major step toward Latin American economic integration. Officials in Uruguay, the trade bloc’s current president, announced the decision Prensa Latina reports.

"This is something that is historic for us," President Hugo Chavez told reporters during an Ibero-American summit meeting in Spain last week. Mercosur was founded by Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay and Paraguay in the 1990s. Venezuela, along with Peru, Bolivia and Chile, are currently only associate members.

Mercosur is holding trade talks with the European Union. Representatives for both regional blocs have agreed to extend negotiations into 2006 after their failure to resolve differences over agricultural subsidies.