7-YEAR GAP

The challenge the new Brazilian ambassador to Venezuela will be to condemn sanctions and 'maintain neutrality', says expert

For Igor Fuser, the diplomat will have to reestablish cooperation between the two countries after seven years

Translated by: Ana Paula Rocha

Brasil de Fato | São Paulo |
New Brazilian ambassador to Venezuela, Gilvânia Maria de Oliveira, sent her credential letter to Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro - Prensa Presidencial

On Tuesday (20), the new Brazilian ambassador to Venezuela, Gilvânia Maria de Oliveira, presented her credential letter to Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro. After seven years without a diplomatic representative in the country, Oliveira will resume outstanding topics and take a stance on issues discussed in Venezuela.

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The first issue the diplomat will have to address is the US economic blockade of Venezuela. According to Igor Fuser, a professor of International Relations at the Federal University of ABC (UFABC, in Portuguese), the ambassador will have to condemn the US blockade "as emphatically as possible".

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To Brasil de Fato, he said that the biggest challenge will be to cooperate so that Venezuela faces its economic hardships imposed by the blockade “without giving room to the right-wing opposition in Brazil to associate the current Brazilian government with Venezuela’s economic failure.”

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Last week, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, Michael Fakhri, called for the end of sanctions because they prevent the government from “implementing programs of social protection and providing basic public services.”

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With an open gap in relations between the countries, Oliveira will also have to re-establish economic, political, social and cultural cooperation between the two countries and, above all, re-establish the trade ties broken during the governments of former presidents Michel Temer and Jair Bolsonaro. According to Fuser, Oliveira will also have to make it clear that Brazil does not interfere in Venezuela's internal affairs and "respects the right to self-determination in the neighboring country."

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The professor says the resumption of relations recovers the “pragmatic” approach that marks Brazil’s foreign affairs and repositions the country as capable of articulating at the regional level and positioning itself as the main political reference in South America.

“It was insane that Brazil broke relations with Venezuela. The country is and has always been a friend of Brazil. Maduro's government did not commit anything that could justify the break or Brazil’s distancing [from its neighbor],” he said.

He also points out that, in addition to trade, Brazilian companies were also affected by the suspension of relations between the two countries. Venezuelan immigrants who were in Brazil lost consular support, and Venezuela stopped supplying the state of Roraima with electric energy.

Venezuela's return to Mercosur will also be on the agenda, and the bloc's political scenario could be a complicating factor. "Brazil will face opposition from Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay, countries currently under right-wing governments hostile to Venezuela," he told Brasil de Fato.

Oliveira worked as the director-general of the Rio Branco Institute and had previously been the Brazilian ambassador to Panama between 2018 and 2022 and consul general in Boston (US) from 2015 to 2018. In 2023, she was chosen to represent Brazil at the dialog table between the Colombian government and the ELN (National Liberation Army) guerrilla group.

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Elections and Essequibo

Internally, the topic discussed everywhere is the 2024 elections. The National Electoral Council has not yet scheduled a date. The government and part of the opposition are negotiating and discussing proposals for a date that complies with what was established in the Barbados agreement.

For Fuser, Brazil's approach to this issue will have to be done cautiously and strategically.

"Brazilian diplomacy, which includes the ambassador, will have to approach this issue – which is not an easy task and requires a high degree of political awareness and training – in an anti-imperialist and anti-colonial sense," he said.

As for the disputed territory of Essequibo, Glivânia Oliveira's job will be easier. Covering 160,000 km², the territory is rich in oil and became the center of tensions between Venezuela and Guyana after the US company Exxon Mobil was granted concessions to exploit maritime reserves off Essequibo's coast. Venezuela classifies the action as "illegal" and calls for the dispute to be resolved through direct negotiations.

Maduro called a referendum to hear the population's opinion on Venezuela's sovereignty over Essequibo. According to the Venezuelan National Electoral Council, 10.5 million voters took part in the referendum, 95.93% of whom agreed to officially incorporate the region into the country's map and grant citizenship and identity documents to the more than 120,000 Guyanese living in the territory.

According to Fuser, Brazil will have to maintain neutrality in this dispute and make all efforts to keep it in the legal and diplomatic field.

"Brazilian neutrality must be preserved under all circumstances. This is the easiest part of the future ambassador's job since it's common-sense that will easily become a consensus in Brazilian society," he said.

Edited by: Rodrigo Durão Coelho