President Mauricio Macri on Tuesday called for the region's leaders to work together to provide solutions for the humanitarian crisis in Venezuela, as Argentina assumed the pro-tempore presidency of the Mercosur trade bloc.
In words delivered to fellow delegates at a summit of the bloc's leaders in Montevideo, Macri said Latin America faced "humanitarian crisis that requires immediate efforts [to] protect the rights of millions of Venezuelans," who he said were victims of a "harsh repression of their own government."
Macri denounced the government of Nicolás Maduro, branding it a "dictatorship that carried out a fraudulent electoral process." He called on the bloc's fellow members, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay to take action.
Venezuela was formerly a member of the Mercosur, having joined in 2012 with the support of then-presidents Cristina Fernández de Kirchner (Argentina), Dilma Rousseff (Brazil) and José Mujica (Uruguay), but it was suspended as a full member in 2016.
We must "work tirelessly [to ensure] the release of political prisoners, respect for human rights, and the restoration of democracy in Venezuela," Macri concluded.
The future of the trade bloc is far from certain, with many onlookers waiting to see what will happen to its importance when Brazil's President-Elect Jair Bolsonaro assumes office at the turn of the year.
Macri, however, stressed the importance of concluding a long-delayed free-trade deal with the European Union (EU), calling for a "redoubling of efforts."
"Mercosur is the platform we choose to go out into the world with, which is why I invite you to leave behind any unproductive existential debate," the president declared.