Lula wants Maduro in office, but Bolsonaro’s act becomes an obstacle to invitation

BRASÍLIA – The team of the president-elect, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva (PT), communicated to members of the Itamaraty that “all countries with which Brazil maintains diplomatic relations” should be invited to the inauguration – which includes Venezuela. The invitation and the arrival of the Venezuelan Nicolas Madurohowever, come up against a measure by the Bolsonaro government that prevents him from entering the country.

Interministerial Ordinance number 7, of 2019, signed by the then Ministers of Justice, Sergio Moroand foreign affairs, Ernesto Araujo, “prevents the entry into the country of senior officials of the Venezuelan regime, who, by their actions, contravene the principles and objectives of the Federal Constitution, attacking democracy, the dignity of the human person and the prevalence of human rights”. Maduro is part of the list drawn up by Itamaraty based on the ordinance.

Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro shakes hands with then President Dilma at the inauguration ceremony
Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro shakes hands with then President Dilma at the inauguration ceremony Photograph: Ueslei Marcelino/Reuters

The text is based on articles of the Brazilian Constitution, resolutions of the Organization of American States (OAS), which Brazil adhered to, a resolution of the Human Rights Council of the United Nations (UN) and declarations of the Lima Group.

For this reason, members of the government transition from the Foreign Relations group and the organization of the Inauguration Ceremony are studying how to make the arrival of the Chavista possible. They estimate that the president Jair Bolsonaro would not respond to a request to revoke the ordinance and that the case would be politically exploited against Lula.

In 2018, Bolsonaro directed the Itamaraty to disinvite Maduro and the president of Cuba, Miguel Díaz-Canel, from his inauguration ceremony. They had also been called based on the practice of sending invitations to all countries with which Brazil has diplomatic relations. At the time, the Venezuelan Chancellery stated that it would never send representatives to Bolsonaro’s inauguration.

The theme has been discussed in the transition and with Itamaraty. Members of the group understand that, at the moment, Maduro could not even be invited, although Brazil has not formally severed relations, and has only withdrawn diplomats from the neighboring country, deactivating the embassy and the consular network. Venezuela still has an embassy in Brasilia, but without high-level representatives.

The proposal to invite Maduro became a problem in the transition — and also in Itamaraty, where diplomats predict, at the very least, a diplomatic discomfort that will need to be resolved in the coming weeks.

Lula’s interlocutors even considered, for example, the possibility of the president-elect revoking the ordinance as one of the first acts upon assuming office. The measure would be unfeasible. First, because, for that, Lula would first need to take office and the invitation for Maduro is to be in the country before that. Even if he did it on the morning of January 1st, there would be no time to travel from Caracas.

Another problem: countries send precursor delegations to inspect security conditions at the place where an international leader is visiting, but the names indicated by Maduro for the trip to Brazil before taking office may also be susceptible to sanctions based on the ordinance or understandings of the OAS.

Lula’s interlocutors guarantee that the president-elect will reorient relations with Caracas and reestablish contact with the Maduro regime, as one of his first measures. Lula will stop recognizing Juan Guaidó as interim president of Venezuela, for example. The transition team has already asked Itamaraty for information about Brazil’s diplomatic facilities in Venezuela, with a view to reopening the embassy.

The petista will have in his favor a change in the international scenario, since 2019. At the time, a policy of maximum pressure was adopted by the international community in the expectation of economically and politically strangling the Maduro regime. The support of the Venezuelan in power, despite this, put the strategy in check. The departure of Donald Trump from the White House and the war in Ukraine also led to a change in Washington’s position, which partially removed sanctions on Venezuela to promote political dialogue between Maduro and the opposition to chavismo.

At the beginning of the year, the vice-president of the Venezuelan National Assembly, Iris Varela, entered Brazil for a meeting with left-wing parliamentarians in the National Congress. She is accused by the OAS of violating human rights. By the resolution adopted by the multilateral body with a vote from Brazil, it was sanctioned and would be prevented from entering the country. Even so, she managed to get to Brasília and hold meetings with parliamentarians. From here, the Venezuelan representative of the Maduro government would travel to Argentina, but upon arrival in the country she was stopped by the local authorities and returned to Caracas.

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