Andres Oppenheimer – Miami Herald, 8/2/2012
Conventional wisdom is that Venezuela was the big winner at this week’s Mercosur summit when the country officially joined South America’s trade bloc. But for me, the big winner was Brazil.
Granted, Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, alongside Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, Argentine President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, and Uruguayan President José Mujica, was the center of attention in Brasilia as he signed Venezuela’s official incorporation into Mercosur on Tuesday.
It was Chávez’s first official trip abroad not related to his cancer treatment in Cuba in more than a year and a major propaganda victory in his campaign to win his country’s Oct. 7 election.
Chávez’s smiling picture alongside the presidents of South America’s biggest countries not only helped him disarm critics’ claims that he is not physically fit to run for president but also aided him in making the case at home that he is not an international pariah whose only foreign friends are the dictatorships of Cuba, Syria, Iran, and Belarus.