While Chavez has won numerous elections monitored by observers and has long held a majority of Venezuelans support, he has also stacked the courts in his favor, jailed judges, and stripped an elected mayor of Caracas from his office because he was in the opposition.
Some have questioned if there were a double standard in the treatment of Paraguay and Venezuela.
If you dont accept what happened in Paraguay, how can you accept what has happened in Venezuela? asked Amaral, the former Brazilian trade minister. Venezuela does not comply with either Mercosurs democracy clause or free-market conditions.
Others have criticized Brazil for letting economic interests get in the way of taking a stronger role in speaking out against practices in the region that undermine democratic institutions.
Mercosur is now a club of accomplices, said Teodoro Petkoff, a longtime Chavez critic and editor of the Venezuelan newspaper Tal Caul.
Brazil appears to benefit the most from Venezuelas admission to Mercosur. It sees it as a market for its goods, primarily food and industrial and manufactured products, since it produces little more than oil and imports everything else. In 2011, its exports to Mercosur countries totaled $371 million vs. $4.8 billion in imports, according to Abeceb.
Abecebs director, Dante Sica, said that Brazil, which put a lot of pressure on the alliance to add Venezuela, comes away the clear winner.
In the coming months, though, Mercosurs rules and bylaws will likely determine whether Venezuela shapes it or vice-versa.
Thats where some observers believe that in addition to Brazils economic gains, there might just be savvy foreign policy.
It is realpolitik and not ideology, says Julia Sweig, senior fellow and director of Latin America studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.
She argues that Brazils strategy for some time has been to pull Venezuela and Chavez into the institutional tent of South America and to bring him into the existing institutions of diplomatic and economic integration, which she contends has already neutralized Chavezs Bolivarian vision.
Abecebs Sica shares the savvy Brazil view, saying that joining Mercosur implies that the countries give up some of their sovereignty and foreign policy.
Chavez will lose a degree of the freedom he once had in international negotiations, he said.