Improved relations: Venezuelan President Maduro to meet with Brazilian President Lula in Brasilia

By: chophogjkkner May. 30,2023

Brazilian President Nicolas Lula and Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro are meeting in Brasilia for the first time in years, thus indicating that relations between the two South American countries are warming up.

Maduro was greeted by an honor guard at the Brazilian presidential palace in Brasilia on May 29 local time, and Lula greeted him with hugs and applause at the time.

The two left-wing leaders are expected to sign various agreements to promote stronger ties between the two countries. Previously, relations between the two countries went through a period of hostility during the tenure of Lula's right-wing predecessor, Bosonaro, who even banned Maduro from entering Brazil in 2019.

Lula and Maduro, who will attend a summit of South American leaders on the 30th, plan to discuss further normalization of relations between the two countries and reopen their respective embassies, Brazil's foreign ministry noted in a statement.

Lula tweeted that "we are at a historic moment" and said he welcomed the Venezuelan leader's visit to Brazil.

"After eight years, President Maduro is visiting Brazil again and we have regained the right to carry out our international relations policy, and we will continue to take other countries seriously, especially our neighbors that border Brazil."

Maduro tweeted on Sunday that he was "grateful for the warm welcome he received."

The Venezuelan leader said after talks with Lula that he would propose South America as a region to ask the United States to lift sanctions against the country.

Maduro also said Venezuela wants to become a member of the BRICS group of major emerging market countries, to which Lula said he personally supports Venezuela's membership.

Lula is the latest left-wing leader in the region to restore relations with Maduro's government, which has been internationally isolated for some time due to its crackdown on political opposition and civil liberties in Venezuela.

Relations between Colombia and Venezuela have also recently improved due to left-wing Colombian President Gustavo Petro, who takes office in August 2022, abandoning the confrontational path taken by conservative former President Ivan Duque.

The two countries have now re-established diplomatic relations and have taken a series of steps to expand existing ties, such as easing travel restrictions on their common border. Petro and Maduro also held bilateral talks in the Venezuelan capital of Caracas last November.

Earlier this month, Colombia and Venezuela also announced that the two countries would increase their military presence in border areas where criminal and armed groups operate.

But Lula's decision to restore relations with Maduro's government has drawn criticism from opponents. Brazilian opposition Senator Sergio Moro tweeted, "Once again, Brazil welcomes the South American dictator with national honor."

Is the West split in its opposition to Maduro's rule? (Agencies)
During Bosonaro's tenure, Brazil banned Maduro and many members of his government from entering the country and recognized Venezuelan opposition leader Guaido as the country's legitimate president.

By contrast, Lula, who led Brazil from 2003 to 2010, has developed close ties with former President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela.

Carolina Silva Pedroso, a professor of international relations at the Federal University of São Paulo, said, "Whether the two governments agree with each other or not, Venezuela is a neighbor of Brazil and cannot be ignored or have diplomatic relations with it severed because there are real problems between us that need to be solved."

Meanwhile, analysts say Lula wants to make this week's regional summit an opportunity to strengthen integration and a test of regional leaders' willingness to cooperate on the basis of a reinvigorated Union of South American Nations.

Founded 15 years ago in the Brazilian capital Brasilia during Lula's second term as president, UNASUR is a regional union that seeks to integrate the 12 countries of South America culturally, socially, politically and economically.

The last meeting with the participation of all member countries of the union was held in 2014. After 2017, disagreements over the group's leadership and Maduro's participation in the meeting led seven of the countries to announce their withdrawal, with Brazil, under the leadership of Bosonaro, announcing its withdrawal in 2019.

Oliver Stuenkel, a professor of international relations at the Getulio Vargas Foundation, a think tank and university based in São Paulo, said, "The biggest problem with UNASUR is that it was created during the rule of left-wing leaders, and when right-wing leaders came, it collapsed."

"It's easy to talk about its re-emergence now, but they need to figure out a way to keep the second attempt alive."

The meeting in Brasilia on the 30th of this month will be attended by Lula, Maduro and nine other regional leaders, in contrast to Peruvian President Boluate, who is expected to be absent from the meeting.

The Boluate government's response to nationwide protests following the ouster of Peru's left-wing former president, Pedro Castillo, has led to the country facing increasing diplomatic isolation in Latin America. It should be noted that Castillo attempted to dissolve parliament, a move widely seen as an illegal action.
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