efe-epaLa Paz

The president-elect of Paraguay, Mario Abdo Benitez, vowed here Thursday to carry out the necessary procedures to help Bolivia become a full member of the Mercosur trade bloc.

Benitez made the pledge during a joint declaration with Bolivian President Evo Morales, after a closed-door meeting in the Palace of Government in La Paz.

The president-elect recalled that the Paraguayan Congress has already approved Bolivia's entry into Mercosur, with the goal of advancing "the integration of our peoples."

"I committed myself to carry out the necessary procedures so that Bolivia may soon become a full member of Mercosur, in order to strengthen the potential of this trade alliance," Benitez said.

The agreement to welcome Bolivia as a full member of Mercosur has already been ratified by Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay, although Brazil's Congress must yet approve the measure.

Morales thanked Benitez, as Paraguay "has always supported Bolivia's aim of becoming a full member of Mercosur," and called on Latin American nations to strengthen their integration mechanisms.

The two men also spoke of improving connectivity between Bolivia and Paraguay by means of new highways and a project to build a transcontinental train, which would cross Bolivia and connect the Brazilian port of Santos with the Peruvian port of Ilo.

Benitez arrived Wednesday in Bolivia accompanied by the vice president-elect, Hugo Velazquez; the future foreign minister, Luis Alberto Castiglioni, and the former president of Paraguay, Nicanor Duarte.

The future Paraguayan president has carried out a series of meetings during the last few weeks with foreign leaders such as Brazil's Michel Temer, Argentina's Mauricio Macri, and Russia's Vladimir Putin, whom he met in Moscow prior to the start of the World Cup.