Venezuela joins Mercosur trading bloc
Venezuela has joined Mercosur, six years after first applying to join the South American trading bloc.
President Hugo Chavez went to Brazil for the ceremony, in his first official trip abroad since being diagnosed with cancer more than a year ago.
“We have waited for this day for many years. This is our path, it is our project, a South American union,” said Mr Chavez.
The Venezuelan president is running for re-election on 7 October.
He says he is now fully recovered from his cancer, which took him to Cuba several times for medical treatment.
Mr Chavez was welcomed in Brasilia by President Dilma Rousseff and the leaders of the other full members of Mercosur - Argentina’s Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner and Uruguay’s Jose Mujica.
Venezuela’s inclusion was made possible with the temporary suspension of Paraguay in June over the impeachment of president Fernando Lugo.
The fast-track trial by the Paraguayan Congress was seen undemocratic and unfair by other Mercosur members.
Venezuela’s admission to Mercosur was blocked for years by Paraguayan congressmen because of concerns about Chavez’s democratic credentials.
Pictured: (L-R) Hugo Chavez with the leaders of the other full Mercosur members; Brazil, Uruguay and Argentina, in Brasilia