In recent days, federal police have opened deportation investigations against diplomats serving dictator Nicolás Maduro in the country, in another chapter in a series of Chavista deportation attempts from Brazil.
On May 13, the PF superintendent of the federal district notified five Venezuelans of the opening of the investigations and gave them ten days to present a written technical defense. The list includes diplomats who headed the representation in Brasilia and General Manuel Antonio Barroso, military attaché.
According to the PF file, in addition to the soldiers, María del Pilar García, Ángel Gustavo Rodríguez, Freddy Efrain Meregote and Irene Auxiliadora Rondón were informed of the investigation.
Irene Rondón currently heads the Chavista mission and met ex-President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (PT) during his visit to Brasilia in early May. The deportation processes are the result of months of disputes between the Jair Bolsonaro government and Maduro’s diplomats.
The friction began with the Brazilian leader’s decision in January 2019 not to recognize the Maduro government and to start seeing the opponent Juan Guaidó as president in charge of the neighboring country.
Also in 2019, Guaidó sent a lean team led by lawyer María Teresa Belandria to Brazil, who presented her with her credentials as Venezuela’s ambassador. In practice, an unusual situation was created: there were, in Brasilia, two opposing teams of Venezuelan diplomats.
Belandria became the only one recognized by Itamaraty, but the Chavistas remained in command of the embassy building and maintained a strong dialogue with diplomats from countries allied to Chavism.
The most tense moment came during the 2019 BRICS summit in Brasilia, when pro-Guaidó activists stormed the embassy. There was unrest at the scene and the group, led by an official from Belandria, did not leave the building until 12 hours later, under police escort.
Since the start of the Bolsonaro government, the Itamaraty, then headed by Ernesto Araújo, worked to get Maduro’s representatives to leave the country, in a delicate operation, as it also involved the situation of Brazilian servants who were working at the time in the embassy in Caracas.
In one of the first actions, the ministry stopped issuing or renewing diplomatic registration cards – a type of identity document – for Chavistas. In April 2020, the portfolio pulled its staff from the embassy in Caracas and said it informed the Maduro government that it expected Chavista diplomats in Brazil to leave the country in 60 days. MP Paulo Pimenta (PT-RS) asked the STF (Supreme Federal Court) to ban the expulsion of Chavistas.
The request was granted by Minister Luís Roberto Barroso, who blocked the eviction while Covid’s state of public calamity lasted – officially ended on December 31.
The ongoing deportation inquiries come after another attack by the Foreign Ministry in September last year. At the time, the Chancellery informed the Federal Police that the civil servants had been declared “personae non gratae”, which effectively nullifies diplomatic immunities and privileges.
It was not until February that the PF sent letters to Maduro’s representatives stating that they had 60 days to regularize their migration status as ordinary citizens or would have to leave the country. After the deadline, the PF opened deportation inquiries. Folha could not contact the notified Venezuelans to find out if they were trying to regularize the situation in the country.
The PF said that “he does not provide information on administrative proceedings against a certain person due to legal secrecy which protects the holders of the information.” The Itamaraty, on the other hand, said the Chavistas’ declaration as “personae non gratae” does not contradict the STF’s decision.
“In the letter sent [à PF], the Ministry of Foreign Affairs informed the list of persons declared “personae non gratae” and clarified that due to the withdrawal of the corresponding privileges and immunities, persons who would choose to stay in Brazilian territory would do so as ordinary foreign citizens . There is no mention of expulsion in the communication sent to the PF. “