Mexico City, Mexico, January 3, 2023 (venezuelanalysis.com) – Brazil’s Luiz Inácio “Lula” da Silva was sworn into office Sunday as tens of thousands of supporters cheered his return to power and social movements celebrated the beginning of a new era for Brazil-Venezuela relations.
Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro warmly greeted Lula’s inauguration, saying on Twitter that it marked a step forward for regional integration efforts.
“I congratulate with joy the inauguration of our comrade [Lula] as President of Brazil. A new wave of liberation runs through the Patria Grande, opening paths for the geopolitical advancement of South American unity projects,” wrote the Venezuelan leader.
Mauro Vieira, Lula’s incoming foreign minister, confirmed last month that the return of da Silva to the presidency would also bring the restoration of diplomatic relations with Venezuela following years of strained relations with Lula’s predecessor.
Lula previously served two terms as president from 2003-2010 before eventually being jailed on trumped up charges in order to prevent him from running for president in the 2018 election that saw far right Jair Bolsonaro elected president. The charges were thrown out by the Brazilian Supreme Court, paving the way for the former union leader to run for a third term.
In December, Maduro named Manuel Vicente Vadell as his country’s ambassador to Brazil.
Although Lula’s transition team overruled the outgoing government to allow Maduro to attend in person, ultimately the Venezuelan president opted instead to send National Assembly President Jorge Rodríguez to head the Venezuelan delegation.
In the lead up to the vote that saw Lula return to power, the Brazilian leader pledged to honor the “self-determination” of the Venezuelan people and to treat Venezuela with respect. Lula also rejected Bolsonaro’s recognition of opposition figure Juan Guaidó as so-called “interim president”.
Bolsonaro was a key ally of former US President Donald Trump, supporting the White House’s “maximum pressure” strategy against Venezuela together with other right-wing figures in the region. During his administration, tensions between Brazil and Venezuela were so great that in 2019 a group of Bolsonaro supporters were allowed to directly attack the Venezuelan embassy, in a flagrant violation of international law.
In response, Brazilian social movements mobilized to protect the embassy in Brasilia. On Monday, Brazilian grassroots activists symbolically returned the Venezuelan embassy to the country’s rightful representatives.
"We are grateful to all the social movements in Brazil, who stayed here for three years ... In the years and centuries to come, Venezuela will never forget the gesture, the solidarity and the support that you had for us," said Rodríguez during the handover ceremony on Monday.
"Social movements today demonstrate what Latin American union and solidarity looks like," said João Pedro Stedile, leader of the Landless Workers Movement (MST) of Brazil.
Following Argentina and Colombia, Brazil is the latest country in the region to recently restore relations with the democratically elected government in Caracas. Renewed ties between the Maduro and Petro governments saw the Tienditas Bridge reopen on January 1 after nearly four years of closure, with cars and trucks now allowed to cross both ways.
With sentiment in the region indicating a tendency to reject Washington’s Venezuela-isolation strategy, Chile’s Gabriel Boric also expressed his desire to change course vis-a-vis the Caribbean nation despite previous criticism of Maduro.
The US also expressed its support for Lula’s third term via a tweet from US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
The leftist leader’s to the presidency is expected to have large ramifications throughout the region, consolidating a series of victories by leftist and progressive candidates in recent votes.
The Lula government is also widely expected to augur a renewed push for regional integration, a key priority for the Venezuelan government as it works toward the recovery of the country’s economy following years of economic aggression by Washington and its allies.
Edited by Ricardo Vaz in Mérida.