Nicolás Maduro makes historic trip to Brazil for South American Presidents’ Summit

Maduro deemed the meeting a “historic and transcendental event” and an important step to reactivating comprehensive joint work between the two countries

May 29, 2023 by Peoples Dispatch
Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro with Brazilian President Lula da Silva. Photo: Ricardo Stuckert

Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro participated in a joint press conference on Monday May 29 from the Planalto Palace in Brasília and highlighted the importance of the neighboring countries resuming ties. The press conference was held following a bilateral meeting between the heads of state ahead of the South American Presidents’ Summit.

Lula told national and international media that, “This is a historic moment. After eight years, President Nicolás Maduro is back to visiting Brazil and we have recovered our right to have a foreign policy with the seriousness we have always had, especially with the countries that border Brazil.”

Their meeting took place days after the Lula government and the Maduro government appointed ambassadors to each other’s countries on May 24, and formalized reestablishment of the bilateral and diplomatic relations between the neighboring countries.

According to statements from their governments, the meeting focused on reactivating trade between the two countries, cooperation on issues regarding the Amazon such as environmental protection and the protection of Indigenous populations, advancing regional integration, and issues related to their 2,200 kilometer border. In the press conference, Lula highlighted that at its height, the flow of trade between the two nations had reached six billion dollars and it had now dropped to two billion, which he said “is bad for Venezuela and Brazil”. Lula also said that he is in favor of Venezuela joining the Global South economic bloc BRICS.

The Venezuelan head of state commented on the challenges the country underwent when “Brazil closed all of the doors and windows, despite being neighboring countries, countries that love each other as peoples”. He recalled that there was even an attempt to invade the Venezuelan embassy in Brasília, but it was defended by Brazilian social movements and solidarity groups. However, he highlighted that “today a new chapter of relations between our countries begins.”

Both also condemned the unilateral coercive measures imposed on Venezuela and justified by the “absurd”, as Lula put it, recognition of Juan Guaidó by many countries across the world, including Bolsonaro’s Brazil. Lula recounted that he fought intensely with different social democratic and centrist forces in Europe who “claim to defend democracy, but denied that you were President of Venezuela, despite being elected by the people.” He expressed his horror of finding out that the country is, to this day, denied its sovereign right to control its own gold resources in London.

For his part, Maduro described that the over 900 measures of economic sanctions were like missiles in the war against Venezuela: “They sanctioned everything that was possible to sanction, and even that which wasn’t possible, they sanctioned it anyways…but we resisted with courage, standing tall and with a smile because we have never lost the hope of a better society and a better world.”

President Nicolás Maduro called the meeting with his Brazilian counterpart a “historic and transcendental event and a victory for the dignity of our peoples. The rescue and revival of the union between Brazil and Venezuela is the right path that will lead us to the development and integration of the Great Homeland.”

South American Presidents’ Summit

The meeting is taking place in the context of the South American Presidents’ Summit, called for by Brazilian President Lula that will take place on Tuesday, May 30, in the headquarters of the Foreign Ministry, the Itamaraty Palace. Lula is bringing the heads of state together for the one-day conference to discuss the resumption of continental integration.

The meeting shall be attended by Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, Argentine President Alberto Fernández, Bolivian President Luís Arce, Chilean President Gabriel Boric, Colombian President Gustavo Petro, Ecuadorian President Guillermo Lasso, Guayanese President Irfaan Ali, Paraguayan President Mário Abdo Benítez, Surinamese President Chan Santokhi, and Uruguayan President Luís Lacalle Pou. In place of Peruvian President Dina Boluarte, who reportedly has internal legal impediments, Prime Minister Alberto Otárola will be attending.

President Lula will personally receive all presidents, who began arriving in the Brazilian capital on Sunday, May 28. According to the information provided by the Brazilian government, the event will be held in two sessions. In the first, the heads of state will gather together and deliver individual statements. In the afternoon, during the second session, the leaders will discuss common problems facing the region in an “informal” manner. In the evening, all presidents and delegations will attend a dinner hosted by President Lula and First Lady Janja Lula da Silva at the Alvorada Palace, the Brazilian president’s official residence.

According to Gisela Figueiredo Padovan, Secretary for Latin America and the Caribbean at Brazil’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the leaders will discuss strengthening regional cooperation in the fields of health, infrastructure, energy, environment and the fight against organized crime.

“The idea is to resume dialogue and cooperation with South American countries, which has been very truncated in recent years and is a priority of the Lula government. We are aware that there are differences of vision and ideological differences between the countries, but President Lula wants to reactivate this dialogue based on common denominators with the countries,” said Padovan during a press conference on May 26.

“It is important to identify common grounds. The region harbors capacities that are key to the future of humanity – such as natural resources, water, minerals, and areas for food production. A concrete cooperation agenda can begin immediately,” Padovan added.

President Lula highlighted that the summit is important for the future of the region. “This week I will receive the presidents of South America in Brasilia, so that together we can discuss the future of our region. No country grows alone. We have to work with our neighbors to build partnerships for the economic development of the region, strengthening cultural ties and defending democracy,” he wrote in a tweet.

A meeting like this one between South American leaders has not taken place for almost a decade. The leaders of these countries last met in 2014, in Quito, Ecuador, during a summit of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR). UNASUR is a regional integration mechanism, which was created in 2008 during the wave of progressive governments in Latin America and the Caribbean in the 2000s.

However, between 2018 and 2020, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Paraguay, Peru and Uruguay, under the leadership of conservative heads of state, withdrew from the organization due their alignment with US imperialist interests. In April, Argentina and Brazil rejoined the group and President Fernández and President Lula vowed to revitalize UNASUR.