Thursday, 28 September, 2023

Brazil's Lula meets with Venezuela's Maduro

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva met Monday with his Venezuelan counterpart Nicolas Maduro, renewing a relationship severed under far-right ex-president Jair Bolsonaro.

Maduro, who arrived in Brasilia Sunday for a South American leaders' summit, was welcomed by an honor guard at the presidential palace, where veteran leftist Lula greeted him with a hug and a back-slap.

The leaders will hold two hours of meetings, then preside over a signing ceremony for various agreements before attending a lunch in honor of Maduro and Venezuelan First Lady Cilia Flores, according to Lula's official schedule.

The pair will discuss "advances in the process of normalizing bilateral relations," including "the reopening of the (countries') embassies," the Brazilian foreign ministry said in a statement.

Brazil cut diplomatic ties with the Maduro government under Bolsonaro (2019-2022), who joined the United States and other critics in recognizing opposition leader Juan Guaido as Venezuela's interim leader.

Lula's decision to restore relations with Maduro's socialist government -- accused of human rights violations and trampling on democracy -- has drawn criticism from opponents.

"Brazil is back to welcoming South American dictators with state honors," opposition Senator Sergio Moro wrote on Twitter.

Lula, who previously led Brazil from 2003 to 2010, cultivated close ties with Maduro's predecessor and mentor, Hugo Chavez.

He invited Maduro to the Brazilian capital along with the rest of South America's leaders for a "retreat" Tuesday aimed at rebooting regional cooperation. It will be the first regional summit in nearly a decade.

"I am grateful for the warm welcome we've received in Brasilia," Maduro tweeted Sunday.

Nine other South American leaders are also due to attend the summit. The only absence is expected to be Peruvian President Dina Boluarte.