Venezuela Resists Brazil Order to Pull Envoys, Fanning Tensions

(Bloomberg) -- Venezuela’s government is defying orders from Brazil’s government to pull its diplomatic personnel from the country, fueling an increase in tensions between the two South American nations.

Brazil withdrew its diplomats from Venezuela last month amid efforts to isolate President Nicolas Maduro and has since been pressuring Caracas to reciprocate. Brazil’s foreign affairs ministry sent a letter, seen by Bloomberg, to Venezuela’s embassy in Brasilia this week saying the deadline to depart remained May 2 “as previously agreed.”

Venezuela’s Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza denied that such negotiations have ever taken place and accused the government of President Jair Bolsonaro of a move that would leave the Venezuelan community in Brazil without diplomatic assistance. “Venezuela’s diplomatic and consular staff in Brazil will not abandon its functions under subterfuges that are against the international law,” he said in a statement.

Suggesting the possibility for a pause, Brazil’s federal prosecutor office on Friday requested that the foreign affairs ministry consider suspending the decision on humanitarian grounds and health reasons. Shortly thereafter, the ministry said it was assessing the request.

Tensions between Brasilia and Caracas have been escalating as Bolsonaro, a U.S. ally, recognizes opposition leader Juan Guaido as the legitimate leader of Venezuela, giving his envoy in Brasilia the status of ambassador. Last November, Guaido’s supporters broke into the Venezuelan Embassy in Brasilia in an attempt to displace staff loyal to Maduro.

While Guaido enjoys the backing of Colombia and dozens of other U.S. allies, he has failed to topple Maduro at home.

Persona Non-Grata

Pro-Maduro diplomats, currently working in the Brasilia embassy and another six consulates in the country, may be declared persona non-grata if they stay in Brazil after the deadline. They would be automatically expelled in that case, even though it’s unclear how this would be conducted as the coronavirus pandemic disrupts flights across Latin America.

Paulo Pimenta, a Brazilian left-wing lawmaker who supports Maduro, said the removal of Venezuelan diplomats would be “logistically impossible” during the pandemic.

“What Bolsonaro is doing is an act of violence,” he said.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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