Caracas, June 4, 2007 (venezuelanalysis.com)— The recent case of Venezuelan private television channel RCTV appears to have opened a rift in relations between Brazil and Venezuela after recent declarations made by the Brazilian Congress, and the response from Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. Brazilian President Luiz Inacio “Lula” da Silva first came to the defense of the Brazilian Congress before Chavez’ criticisms, but later made efforts to repair relations with Venezuela when one of his advisors defended Chavez’ decision against RCTV.
Chavez criticized the Brazilian Senators last week, accusing them of being subordinate to Washington, after the Brazilian Congress criticized Chavez’s decision not to renew RCTV’s broadcast license and urged him to reconsider. The 15 members of the Committee of Foreign Relations of the Brazilian Senate approved an "appeal" to the government of Chavez on May 30th to renew the broadcast license of the private channel RCTV after it expired on May 28th.
"It would be easier, much easier, for the Portuguese empire to reinstall itself in Brazil than for the Venezuelan government to return the license to the Venezuelan oligarchy," said Chavez in response to the action. Chavez went on to call the body a "parrot that seems to repeat whatever they say in Washington."
Chavez labeled the Senators’ declaration as "obnoxious" and affirmed that his government "does not accept the intervention of anyone in the internal affairs of Venezuela."
Brazilian President Lula da Silva was in India when he responded to Chavez’ statement, saying, "The Congress was not obnoxious because it is just a note asking for understanding" from the Venezuelan government.
"Chavez needs to keep to Venezuela, I have to keep to Brazil and President George W. Bush has to keep to the United States" he said before calling for the Venezuelan Ambassador in Brazil to give an explanation for Chavez’s comments.
Renan Calheiros, President of the Brazilian Senate, also responded to Chavez’ statement by saying that Chavez "made a big mistake by attributing to the (Brazilian) Congress a subordination that doesn’t exist, to any power, and above all not any foreign power."
The Senator assured that the action taken by the Congress was "a call to a neighboring president with the objective of showing the importance of maintaining freedom of the press in the continent."
The conflict reached an unprecedented level between the Chavez and Lula governments in recent years. The Brazilian President has normally avoided making criticisms about Venezuelan affairs and has openly supported Chavez both in his reelection and his government programs. On this occasion, however, the Brazilian leader responded differently to come to the defense of Brazil’s center-right dominated Senate.
Nevertheless, with the intention of repairing relations, Lula sent his presidential advisor Marco Aurelio Garcia to smooth out the issue with Venezuela. Garcia assured from Brasilia that President Chavez "had not done anything illegal," he was quoted saying in the Brazilian daily O Estado de Sao Paulo.
"We don’t consider that any democratic rule has been violated," said Garcia. "I have walked not a few times in Venezuela. In only a few countries have I seen the press speak with as much liberty as in Venezuela."
Garcia, who accompanied Lula in his trip to India, assured that "every time I was in Venezuela I saw the press say terrible things about Chavez."
According to the advisor, "The projects of integration in South America and of expanding Mercosur are too important to justify a decision by Brazil to cool relations with Venezuela."