The Brazilian President, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silvacalled this Tuesday in Brasilia their South American counterparts to overcome “ideological” differences and work on regional integration, but the dissensions over Venezuela divided again.
Since he returned to power in January, Lula has tried to restore Brazil to prominence on the international scene and in this first South American summit in almost a decade he intends to launch a new version of the paralyzed Unasur.
“We let ideologies divide us and interrupt integration efforts, we abandoned dialogue channels and cooperation mechanisms, and with that we all lost”, stated Lula in his opening speech before the meeting behind closed doors in Itamaraty, headquarters of the foreign ministry. “The elements that unite us are above ideological differences”he added.
However, the president of Uruguay, Luis Lacalle Pou, made it clear that these divisions continue to weigh heavily. The center-right president criticized that his Brazilian counterpart defended Nicolás Maduro the day before by assuring that the denunciations of authoritarianism in Venezuela is a “narrative”.
“I was surprised when it was said that what happens in Venezuela is a narrative”Lacalle said during his speech before Lula and the rest of the leaders.
“If there are so many groups in the world that are trying to mediate so that democracy is full in Venezuela, so that human rights are respected, that there are no political prisoners, the worst thing we can do is cover the sun with a finger”he added.
Along the same lines, the president of Chile, Gabriel Boric, said that the Venezuelan situation “it is not a narrative construction” but one “a serious reality”. “Human rights must be respected always and everywhere, regardless of the political color of the current ruler,” said.
The Chilean president also supported Caracas’s repeated request to call on the United States and the European Union to dismantle the sanctions that weigh on Maduro and his government.
Lula, who resumed diplomatic ties with the Venezuelan government broken by his predecessor, the far-right Jair Bolsonaro, received Maduro in Brasilia on Monday with honors.
“Comrade Maduro, you know the narrative that was built against Venezuela: that of anti-democracy, of authoritarianism”affirmed the leftist leader questioning the “inexplicable” international sanctions. “It is the beginning of the return of Maduro” at the regional level, added Lula, defining the moment as “historical”.
Lula’s reception of Maduro also irritated the Bolsonaro opposition. Senator Flavio Bolsonaro, son of the former president, accused of “global shame” the reception of “drug dictator” Ripe and said that “Lula shows that he does not care about the dictatorship that sows fear, hunger and death”.
Lack of common projects
Eleven regional leaders are participating in the meeting, defined by Lula as a “retreat” to speak in a relaxed and frank manner.
In addition to Lula, Maduro, Boric and Lacalle, the meeting was attended by the presidents of Argentina, Alberto Fernández; from Colombia, Gustavo Petro; from Paraguay, Mario Abdo Benítez; from Ecuador, Guillermo Lasso; that of Bolivia, Luis Arce; and the one from Suriname, Chan Santokhi. Peru is represented by the chief of staff, Alberto Otárola.
Without a pre-established agenda, the leaders plan to discuss a new regional integration mechanism and cooperation on issues such as energy and the fight against transnational crime.
South America “In speeches it is united, but not in concrete projects”Petro told reporters upon arrival in Itamaraty.
A meeting between South American leaders had not occurred since 2014, during a Unasur summit in Quito. Created in 2008 by Lula (2003-2010) and Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez to counter US influence in the region, the Union of South American Nations was criticized for years by some for having a leftist bias.
And after conservative victories at the polls, internal political instability, and disagreements between countries over the Venezuelan crisis, the block was practically paralyzed, without a budget and without headquarters.
Currently, only Bolivia, Guyana, Suriname, Venezuela and Peru – who never abandoned it – remain in Unasur, in addition to Brazil and Argentina, who returned this year.
A new integration mechanism “it can work differently”Lula said. The meeting will be followed by a dinner at La Alvorada, the official residence of the president.
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