The meeting on Monday (12) between the elected president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (PT) and the National Security Advisor of the United States, Jake Sullivan, gave indications of what the PT’s priority agendas will be with the government of the American president. Joe Biden. There is an offensive by the two to isolate their opponents Jair Bolsonaro and Donald Trump with speeches in defense of democracy. But, in parallel, Lula and Biden seek a joint rapprochement with Venezuela, governed by left-wing dictator Nicolás Maduro.
Biden’s expectation is that Lula will be the main guarantor of rapprochement between the United States and Venezuela. Amid public declarations that the objective is to restore Venezuelan democracy, there is American interest in the oil of the country governed by Nicolás Maduro – a demand created by the deterioration of the West’s relationship with Russia after the War in Ukraine. Russia is a major oil producer.
According to the account of former chancellor Celso Amorim, present at the conversation between Sullivan and Lula, Biden’s representative stated that the US government hopes for a “fair” election in Venezuela. “I feel, it seems, let’s say, and then I have to be careful because I don’t know exactly the word he would use… The idea that is important, fundamental, for them [os americanos]is that there is an election [na Venezuela] that can be considered fair and [que] they will accept whoever is the winner,” said Amorim.
The Biden government is trying to change relations with the government of Nicolás Maduro, broken during the government of Donald Trump. And Brazil, under Lula’s command, will again recognize Maduro as president of Venezuela. In early 2019, the United States, the European Union and other countries, including Brazil, already chaired by Jair Bolsonaro, recognized the president of the Venezuelan National Assembly, Juan Guaidó, as head of state. Now, however, the predominant interpretation in the PT is that Guaidó no longer has the support of a significant part of the international community and the chances of Maduro’s fall are minimal.
Lula will be a bridge between the US and the Maduro government
With Brazil’s rapprochement with Venezuela, Lula’s allies indicate that the PT may play a decisive role in building the new relationship between the US government and the Venezuelan dictator. Since the beginning of the war in Ukraine, the United States has depended on other countries to buy oil that until then it had imported from Russia. And Venezuela, which has one of the largest reserves in the world, has become strategic for the Americans.
Recently, for example, Joe Biden authorized the resumption of operations by the American oil company Chevron in Venezuela and the shipment of production to the United States, reducing the rigidity of sanctions for companies operating in the South American country. At the same time, negotiations with the Venezuelan government were reopened. In March, three senior Biden administration officials traveled to Caracas to meet with Maduro to try to lure him back into talks with the US-backed opposition. On the agenda was the release of several Americans imprisoned in Venezuela for years. Negotiations, however, did not advance.
Recently, Maduro conditioned the holding of free elections in the country to the complete removal of sanctions from countries like the United States to its economy. Venezuela’s official electoral calendar predicts a presidential race for 2024, but the dictator’s regime has yet to set a date. In recent months, Maduro has resumed dialogue with the opposition after a year of suspension of talks, in a negotiation in which the election is the central issue.
Now, PT leaders assess that the situation in Venezuela will be at the center of the new relationship between the Brazilian government and that of the United States. Still according to PT members, Lula has been clear and signaling that the solution can only be political and through dialogue. “Lula spoke of the importance of having real contact, recognizing realities, recalling past experiences, dialogue,” said Celso Amorim about the president-elect’s meeting with Biden’s security adviser.
The assessment among Lula’s allies is that the relationship of “respect” between the PT and the Venezuelan dictator could be decisive for resolving the impasse between the Maduro government, the opposition and the democratic world. According to the PT, the future Lula government will be able to lead negotiations that can reach an understanding between Venezuela and the democratic regimes.
Venezuela will be on the agenda of Lula’s visit to Biden after taking office in January. The US president intended to receive the PT still in December. But Lula postponed the trip citing “internal issues in Brazil”. “Lula said that perhaps it would not be possible to be there before the inauguration. He thinks it is possible to go at the beginning of the year, already on an official visit as president”, added former chancellor Celso Amorim.
Bolsonaro and Trump will also enter the agenda of discussions between Lula and Biden
In addition to Venezuela, the political capital of Jair Bolsonaro and former President Donald Trump will also be at the center of Lula and Biden’s agenda. In the assessment of PT allies, Bolsonaro sought to repeat in Brazil the same behavior as Trump, who did not recognize defeat at the polls. And that would be a way to weaken democracy in both countries.
Recently, Lula stated that he and Biden have “a lot to talk about” because the United States and Brazil “suffer from a democratic need” due to Trump and Bolsonaro’s actions, respectively. “The damage that [ex-presidente] Trump did to American democracy is the same damage Bolsonaro did to Brazil. Trump’s thinking, his behavior, is the same as our president [Bolsonaro] here”, said Lula.
Interlocutors of the PT, however, do not indicate what measures both governments can jointly adopt to “strengthen democracy” in both countries. “Lula made a comparison, I don’t know if these were exactly the words used, between Trumpism and Bolsonarism, and the need to strengthen democracy. Jake Sullivan stressed the importance of victory. Victory, no, of the election, as it was, democratic, with the President Lula’s victory, how important this was for democracy in Brazil, in the region and in the world,” Amorim reported after Lula’s meeting with Biden’s Security Secretary.