Reviving Brazil-Venezuela Relations: Lula’s Meeting With Maduro


Brazil and Venezuela today sanction a full resumption of bilateral relations, interrupted due to political contingencies and unexplained reasons. This was stated by the president of Brazil, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, during the press conference at the end of the bilateral agreement with his Venezuelan counterpart, Nicolas Maduro. “Today we celebrate the full resumption of bilateral relations with Venezuela, interrupted due to political contingencies and unexplained reasons. We don’t want them to be only economic and commercial relations, but also political, cultural, economic, in the field of science and technology, as well as in the military, to take care of our border together ”, Lula said in his speech.

The economic, social and humanitarian crisis in Venezuela and the political frictions with the government of the former president, Jair Bolsonaro, had led to a total interruption of diplomatic relations between the two countries. Since January 1, with the start of the third term for Lula, the two governments have begun to normalize relations. Already at the end of December 2022, Caracas proceeded to appoint Manuel Vicente Vadell – former consul general of Venezuela in São Paulo – as ambassador to Brazil. In mid-January, a diplomatic mission went to Caracas to reopen the embassy in Venezuela. The delegation is led by Flavio Maceira, the official designated as charge d’affaires pending the appointment of a titular ambassador.

“You don’t know how happy I am here living this historic moment, Maduro returns to Brazil after 8 years and here we recover the right to do politics and take care of our international relations with the seriousness with which we have always done it. It is difficult to conceive that so many years have passed without the authorities of our countries maintaining a dialogue. A neighboring Amazonian country, with which we share an extensive border of 2200 kilometers. Due to political contingencies – Lula added – a commercial relationship was interrupted which saw trade reduced from a value of 6.8 billion dollars to less than 2. A loss for the two countries,” Lula said.

In a criticism of the “anti-Venezuelan” and “guided by preconception” policies implemented by the United States and the European Union (EU), the Brazilian head of state said he was aware that “this new era that we are marking now does not it will overcome all the obstacles and wrongs you have suffered over the years.” “I’ve quarreled a lot with my European Social Democrat colleagues, with governments, and with people in the United States, because I’ve always thought it was the most absurd thing in the world, for people who defend democracy, to deny that you were president of Venezuela, being was elected by the people and recognize an imposter, a citizen who was elected MP as the legitimate president of the country, entrusting him with the state’s gold reserves held in UK banks,” he concluded.

President Lula also added that Venezuela needs to disseminate its “narrative” about the country’s political and economic situation to counter the “narratives” constructed by opponents on the international scene. “I think it is up to Venezuela to show its narrative, so that it can actually change people’s minds. It is inexplicable that one country has 900 penalties because another country doesn’t like it. I think it is in your hands, comrade Maduro, to build your narrative so that Venezuela becomes a sovereign people again, where only its people, through free voting, decide who will govern the country. That’s all there is to say. And our opponents will have to apologize for the damage they have done in Venezuela,” he concluded.

Arrived in Brazil

President Maduro has arrived in Brazil to participate in tomorrow’s summit of the presidents of the countries of South America. “I appreciate the warm welcome with which we were welcomed in Brasilia. In the coming hours, we will develop a diplomatic agenda that strengthens the necessary union of the peoples of our continent,” Maduro wrote in a tweet. President Lula has convened the first summit of the presidents of the countries of South America for May 30 in Brasilia. This was reported by the Foreign Ministry in a note. “The purpose of the meeting is to promote a frank dialogue among all, in order to identify common denominators, discuss perspectives for the region and reactivate the South American cooperation agenda in key areas, such as health, climate change, defense, the fight against transnational illicit companies, infrastructures and energy”, it reads. As Lula indicated to his counterparts in the region “it is imperative that we return to seeing South America as a region of peace and cooperation, capable of generating concrete initiatives to address the challenge, which we all share and to which we aspire, of sustainable development with justice social,” he concludes.

Among the commitments made by Lula in the third term of president, which began on 1 January, there is precisely that of relaunching the regional unitary plan. In April, Brazil and Argentina announced their intention to return to Unasur (Union of South American Nations), one of the emblems of the dominance that center-left governments exercised in Latin America at the turn of the century. An instance that had crumbled with the gradual entry onto the scene of conservative governments, and which today – with the center-right once again at historic lows – promises to be one of the various unitary projects put in place by the progressives. Projects that have as common denominators the claim of a regional cultural identity, the commitment to policies in favor of less well-off populations and a certain distance from the US administration. And it is no coincidence that in the same hours in which they announced their return to Unasur – responding to the invitation of the President of Mexico, Andrés Manuel Lopez Obrador -, Argentina and Brazil participated together with eight other governments in the first summit of the Alliance against inflation in the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean.

In the background, the repeatedly announced project to relaunch the Community of Latin American and Caribbean Countries (CELAC), the body that brings together the whole continent except for the USA and Canada, in open competition with the Organization of Americans (Osa), considered too much dominated by the interests of the White House. Initiatives, as mentioned, are back in vogue with the contemporary presence of governments with left-hand drive: the rise of Gustavo Petro, the first progressive president in the history of Colombia and author of a decisive opening of credit towards the president of Venezuela, was decisive in this sense. Nicolas Maduro. Not to mention the return of Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva to Brazil, the presence of Lopez Obrador in Mexico and that – probably on expiry – of Alberto Fernandez in Argentina.

Unasur was promoted in 2008 by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez to counter US influence in the region, at a time when several center-left presidents ruled South America. The intention was to create an economic and political union that would give the member states a stronger voice on the international scene, a prelude to a possible regional unity, including a political one, if not a monetary one. Over time, and the departure of several of the protagonists of “neo socialism” – the Bolivian Evo Morales, the Ecuadorian Rafael Correa, the Brazilian Lula or the Argentine Cristina Kirchner – the instance lost momentum, until to no longer be able to find a replacement for the position of secretary general, after the end of the mandate of the Colombian Ernesto Samper, in 2017. To date, the bloc is made up only of Bolivia, Guayana, Suriname and Venezuela.

Many countries, starting with Brazil and Argentina, had signed the recession treaty in 2019, denouncing the excessively “ideological” nature of the blockade, and prepared the foundations for the “Prosur” (Forum for the progress of South America), alternative body collapsed under the blows of the pandemic even before the weakness of the political foundations. The change of political orientation was reflected above all in the condemnation of the Venezuelan government of Nicolas Maduro for the harsh social and political crisis underway in those years: twelve countries, led by the United States of then President Donald Trump, had created the “Group of Lima”, an instance which, in agreement with the opposition leader Juan Guaidò, aimed for Maduro’s exit from the scene.

However, the most ambitious project remains that of a relaunch of CELAC as the place par excellence of Latin American unity. The president of Mexico, Andrés Manuel Lopez Obrador, has spoken about it on various occasions, even proposing a path similar to the one that led the European Union to the creation of a market, a currency and – finally – common institutions. The idea, also vigorously carried forward by Argentina, however, seems far from materializing. CELAC – it adopts decisions by consensus – was founded in 2011 in Caracas, Venezuela, following the merger of the Rio Group and the Latin American and Caribbean Summit (CALC). In January 2020, President Jair Bolsonaro had decided to suspend Brazil’s participation in the body, denouncing the lack of results in defending democracy and the support given to governments deemed authoritarian. Today it brings together 17 percent of the countries belonging to the United Nations, about 624 million people, 15 percent of the planet’s territory and creates 7.1 percent of the global gross domestic product.

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