While several countries condemn the latest undemocratic decisions of dictator Nicolás Maduro, President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (PT) did not take a position on the Venezuelan’s political maneuvers. With presidential elections scheduled for this year in the country, Maduro has made his main competitor ineligible for the next 15 years. The decision is seen as yet another action by the dictator to maintain his position as president – which he has held for more than a decade.
Lula’s delay in speaking on the topic may be motivated by fear that a hypothetical comment from the PT member could strain the bilateral relationship or by caution after the several contradictory statements he has already made about Maduro and his regime.
This year, Brazil began to broker, together with Caracas, an agreement with the United States government. Washington had agreed to ease embargoes related to trade with Venezuela as long as the country committed to holding democratic and secure elections. But Maduro does not appear to be willing to leave office through the polls and has not fulfilled his part of the agreement.
On the 27th, the Venezuelan Supreme Court of Justice confirmed the disqualification of the candidacy of oppositionist María Corina Machado for the elections in the coming months. Corina won the primaries for her party, Vente Venezuela, in October last year and has since become a target of the Maduro regime.
Even so, given the historic partnership with Maduro, Lula did not comment on the issue. Before that, in fact, she had been making efforts in recent months to try to improve the Venezuelan’s image. On some occasions, the PT member even came out in defense of the Venezuelan regime and tried to reintegrate Maduro into international discussions.
In one of the attempts to recover the image of the South American neighbor, Lula and his former minister and current advisor for special affairs, Celso Amorim, provided assistance to Caracas in order to facilitate democratic elections in the country. Amorim was also an active figure in negotiating the Barbados Agreement, signed between the United States and Venezuela.
In recent months, a wing of the government has had several meetings with members of the Venezuelan regime and also with Maduro. Amorim may have been chosen to continue with this mission due to his experience as a diplomat and the years he was chancellor in the first two Lula governments. As already revealed by People’s Gazette Previously, he has been the PT member’s right-hand man when it comes to foreign policy matters.
OAS, USA and Argentina condemn Maduro’s maneuvers
Since the publication of Maduro’s decision, several countries and the Organization of American States (OAS) have condemned the electoral maneuvers committed by the Venezuelan autocrat. In a statement, the OAS called Venezuela a “dictatorship” and questioned Maduro’s intentions regarding the elections. “This dictatorial logic of political persecution and violation of citizens’ political rights – absolutely predictable and expected given the regime’s antecedents – once again eliminates for Venezuela the possibility of free, fair and transparent elections”, says the statement.
The United States, Uruguay and Argentina also condemned the regime’s decision. The Argentine Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement that it monitors the political situation in the neighboring country with “concern” and that it defends the “full participation of all political candidates and the presence of external observers” in the Venezuelan election.
The Uruguayan government also published a note on the matter and stated that Maduro’s decision “contradicted the Barbados Agreement”.
The United States also expressed concern and began reimposing sanctions on the country. In October, after the two countries signed the Barbados Agreement – which was supported by Brazil – North American companies were able to sell Venezuelan products again. President Joe Biden, however, once again announced new bans after the latest decisions by the Venezuelan Comptroller.
Barbados Agreement: Brazil helped Venezuela negotiate with the USA
Since assuming the presidency of Brazil for his third term, Lula has resumed diplomatic relations with Venezuela, which had been interrupted by former president Jair Bolsonaro (PL). In one of these initiatives, Brazil sought to mediate a Caracas negotiation with Washington.
Throughout the months of 2023, Lula and Celso Amorim were in contact with the Venezuelan government to make the agreement happen. Negotiated by Norway, the two countries, along with representatives from other nations, met in Barbados to close the agreement that would allow a kind of truce between Joe Biden and Maduro.
“Brazil will continue to contribute to the process of dialogue between Venezuelan political forces with a view to suspending all sanctions and holding free, competitive and transparent elections next year”, wrote the Itamaraty Palace in a note.
In the so-called Barbados Agreement, signed in October, Venezuela agreed to release political prisoners and organize secure democratic elections.
The United States has already committed to easing part of the sanctions imposed on the country. In the wake of these negotiations, the US released Colombian businessman Alex Saab, an important ally of Maduro, in exchange for Venezuelans and Americans detained in Caracas.
With the removal of sanctions, the United States began to negotiate oil, gas and gold purchased from Venezuela, in addition to eliminating the ban on secondary trade from these resources. The agreement was signed by both countries and also by Brazil.
Given the latest events and Maduro’s efforts to have no competitors in the elections, the United States took the decision to resume the sanctions imposed on Venezuela. At first, the country banned negotiations with the country’s mining companies and threatened to do the same with the oil industry if the Venezuelan autocrat insists on electoral maneuvers.
Ineligibility of Maduro’s main opponent
Last year, when María Corina Machado launched herself as a pre-candidate for president, the General Comptroller of Venezuela classified her as ineligible for 15 years. The determination, according to the agency, was part of an investigation opened against María in 2015, when she was still a deputy.
At the time, the agency condemned her for “administrative irregularities” for allegedly not including the payment of food bonuses in her sworn declaration of assets. The case would have occurred during his parliamentary term and the determination should last only one year. The Comptroller, however, claimed that it continued investigating the candidate after that and therefore extended the punishment time.
The leader of the opposition in Venezuela, Juan Guaidó, emphasizes that the disqualification is illegal and that María Corina Machado has been a victim of persecution. In 2019, shortly after the presidential election that elected Maduro in 2018, she was accused of participating in “a corruption network” led by Guaidó.
Juan Guaidó ran against Nicolás Maduro for president of Venezuela in 2018, and, at the time, was recognized as interim president of Venezuela by 50 countries, including Brazil. These and other nations did not recognize Maduro’s re-election and international organizations considered the election “fraudulent”.
Last year, in December, Corina tried to appeal the Comptroller’s decision of ineligibility to the Supreme Court of Venezuela. The answer came this Sunday (27): in addition to maintaining the veto, the Venezuelan Supreme Court also disqualified his possible replacement, Henrique Capriles, who has already been a presidential candidate twice in Venezuela.
In a recent statement, Maduro’s opponent also said that she was interested in meeting Lula and that there was no opportunity. Palácio do Planalto and Itamaraty have not yet clarified whether Corina’s team has been in contact to facilitate a meeting between the two or whether there is any type of negotiation in this regard.
Lula’s relationship with Maduro and Venezuela
Brokering the agreement with the United States was not the only time that Lula reached out to Venezuela. Long-time partners, the Brazilian president made several nods to Maduro and even came out in defense of the Venezuelan regime. In some statements, he said that the concept of democracy was “relative” and that Venezuela “has more elections than in Brazil”.
The allegations generated several criticisms of the PT member who, last year, received Maduro with the honors of head of state on Brazilian soil on the sidelines of the South American Summit. After bilateral meetings with the Venezuelan at the Planalto Palace, Lula also stated that the autocrat was the victim of a “narrative of anti-democracy and authoritarianism”.
However, it is worth mentioning that Maduro is accused of arresting, persecuting and murdering political opponents. In addition to the clear attempts mentioned above to corrupt the Venezuelan electoral system in order to remain president of his country.
The rapprochement between Lula and the Venezuelan government has occurred since Hugo Chávez, Maduro’s predecessor and of whom the PT member was a great friend. Chávez was in charge of Venezuela for more than a decade and is considered responsible for imposing the dictatorial regime still in force in the country.
Until Chávez’s election, the country was governed by “traditional parties” and, since he became president, he began to implement a regime known as the Bolivarian Revolution, which calls itself socialist, implements left-wing national interests, is against globalization, and also stands against the policies adopted by the United States.
Infographics Gazeta do Povo[Clique para ampliar]