Brazil Urges Venezuela's Opposition to Unite Against Maduro

(Bloomberg) -- Venezuela’s opposition should overcome its internal divisions in order to unify more effectively against President Nicolas Maduro, Brazil’s foreign minister said in an interview.

"If you want to change things, you need to have an alternative," Aloysio Nunes Ferreira said in his office in Brasilia on Thursday. "I’ve been telling my friends in the Venezuelan opposition that they need to come up with a united front of action. That would convey to the people the message that they can be an alternative and that Maduro’s government is not the end of history."

Nunes Ferreira said he told U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis, who visited Brazil earlier this week, that a foreign intervention would only "add fuel to the fire" and deepen the humanitarian crisis in the country. "Mattis agreed with me," Nunes Ferreira added.

As Venezuela’s collapse spawns hunger, hyperinflation and mass emigration, opposition leaders remain at odds over their strategies to defeat Maduro. Some vow to keep up political pressure in a push towards a democratic transition. Others demand radical action to topple someone they say is a dictator who won’t step down peacefully. While the opposition bickers, Maduro has increased a crackdown on his domestic foes, a tactic that has intensified after he survived a drone attack earlier this month.

A Bloomberg investigation revealed on Friday that Venezuelan military dissidents and civilians met in neighboring Colombia weeks before the failed assassination attempt.

Lesson From Brazil

Venezuela could look to what happened during the Brazilian military regime that ended in the mid-eighties, Nunes Ferreira argued. The opposition was similarly divided over the use of force and, while international pressure helped embarrass and isolate the junta, change only took place when anti-military leaders united to create a political party that paved the way for democratization.

The minister said Brazil will continue to support the Venezuelan refugees that keep pouring over the border into the state of Roraima, despite rising tension over the influx of immigrants. Nunes Ferreira added that he expects to brief the administration that wins October’s elections on the importance of maintaining humanitarian assistance and Brazil’s partnership with the UN agency for refugees.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.