Moving away from the position of total confrontation with Venezuela, the new Itamaraty command abandoned the attacks against the regime of Nicolás Maduro, expressed its support for the dictatorship to open a negotiating table with the opposition and reduced contacts with the allies of the anti-fascist leader Juan Guaidó.
With this, the new Chancellor Carlos França marks a difference with his predecessor, Ernesto Araújo, who since 2019 has promoted a policy of broad support for Guaidó and kept the doors of the Chancellery open to his allies in Brazil.
The change of course was designed by diplomats to prevent Brazil from shocks deemed unnecessary with the Maduro dictatorship, a claim made by the military wing and pragmatic sectors of government.
It is also a reflection of the evolution of the international scenario. The line sponsored by Ernesto – who frequently denounced drug trafficking and a Chavist “politico-criminal complex” – lost its main guarantor with the departure of former President Donald Trump from the White House.
Instead of the Republican, Joe Biden intends to tackle the Venezuelan question while maintaining the diplomatic and economic offensive, but opening the possibility of some sort of negotiation with the regime.
The internal assessment of the new Itamaraty command is that the Chavist dictatorship has solidified in power, despite the maximum pressure exerted during the Trump years.
In this sense, Ernesto’s constant attacks on Maduro allowed the former chancellor to serve the more radical base of Bolonarianism, but did not bring advantages to Brazil in the delicate regional context.
The new position does not, say interlocutors, signify Maduro’s approval, but indicates an acknowledgment of reality. Like Brazil or not, Maduro remains in power and minimal channels of communication with the dictatorship must be cultivated.
Sign of the new direction of Itamaraty, France remained silent on the subject by receiving the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Spain, Arancha González, at Itamaraty.
The Chancellor made no mention of Maduro or the neighboring country in his speech. Arancha González, for his part, said he spoke with the Brazilian Chancellor on “regional issues”, without specifically mentioning Venezuela.
Another Itamaraty silence that did not go unnoticed occurred during the formation of the new National Electoral Council, the body that will oversee the elections in Venezuela in the years to come.
Although the opposition is represented, the collegiate church remains controlled by members loyal to Maduro, and the Brazilian government privately believes that it does not meet the minimum conditions to ensure the fluidity of a democratic process.
Interlocutors heard on condition of anonymity affirm that Ernesto would certainly denounce the renewal of the organ as a new maneuver of Chavismo, but France preferred to deviate from the theme.
On another front, in political contacts with allied countries, Brazil began to point out that it was ready to look for ways to bring the regime and the opposition to a negotiating table.
The new chancellor’s own rhetoric indicates a drop in temperature with Caracas.
At the end of April, during a hearing at the Chamber’s External Relations Committee, France was questioned about Venezuela by deputies Eduardo Bolsonaro (PSL-SP) and Marcel Van Hattem (Novo-RS). However, he confined himself to saying that in Venezuela there is a “democratic deficit” and defended “free elections” in the country, using a vocabulary far removed from that used by Ernesto.
The interlocutors recognize that France is trying to avoid raising a question which is not only thorny but which also brings together the base of support of President Jair Bolsonaro. But they stress that this does not mean that Brazil has changed the essence of its policy towards Venezuela.
Those involved in the matter say the foreign ministry continues without believing any promise of openness made by Chavismo and continues to recognize Juan Guaidó as the Venezuelan president.
They also rule out that Brazil plans to go back and stop treating Guaidó as a legal leader in the neighboring country. In January, the European Union withdrew its recognition of the Venezuelan opponent as interim president.
The interlocutors consulted also affirm that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs considers Ambassador María Teresa Belandria to be the legitimate representative of the Venezuelan government in Brazil, a status conferred on her by Ernesto in 2019. However, even the contact level of the Ministry of Affairs with the allies of Guaidó is inferior. than what was with Ernesto.
For more than a month in power, France has yet to speak to Julio Borges, who is the Chancellor of the Venezuelan opposition. Contact did not take place even though he held videoconferences with several neighboring counterparts.
Belandria and her advisers’ level of access to Itamaraty has also been reduced, according to people following the topic.
Questioned, Belandria declared that since 2019 she has maintained “a fluid and constant communication with all her interlocutors in Brazil, in particular, with the various secretariats of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs”.
“The communication of this diplomatic delegation from Itamaraty is permanent, sometimes being more than one contact per day, by means of duly recorded notes verbales. On the other hand, face-to-face meetings, as with all other bodies, are limited due to the prevention and safety rules imposed by the pandemic, ”Guaidó’s ambassador said in a note.