By Leonardo Desideri
(Opinion) The Itamaraty did not sign an international declaration supported by 54 countries last Friday (Mar. 3) condemning recent human rights abuses in Nicaragua.
The omission of the position against dictator Daniel Ortega adds to a series of nods that the Lula government has been making at the beginning of its mandate to dictatorships, including Venezuela, Cuba, and Iran.
The declaration was signed by United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC) members.
It condemned the decision of the Nicaraguan dictatorship to deprive victims of political persecution of their Nicaraguan citizenship and political rights.
It also calls for the authorities to “cease arbitrary detentions and release all political prisoners, including leaders of the Catholic Church,” and states concern over “the deteriorating human rights situation of indigenous peoples and Afro-descendants in Nicaragua.”
In 2021, in an interview with the Spanish newspaper El País, Lula defended Latin American dictatorships by comparing their leaders to democratically elected figures from the rest of the world.
“Why can Angela Merkel stay 16 years in power, and Daniel Ortega can’t? Why can Margaret Thatcher stay 12 years in power, and Chavez not?” he questioned.
ORTEGA’S OMISSION COMES JUST AFTER A NOD TO IRAN’S DICTATORSHIP
Another polemic involving Lula’s relationship with a dictatorship occurred at the end of last week when the PT government authorized two Iranian warships to dock in Rio de Janeiro.
The decision has been questioned and treated as a mistake by the United States.
As journalist Leonardo Coutinho reports in his Gazeta do Povo column, the Iranian regime may be taking advantage of Lula’s return to use Brazil as a springboard to provoke the United States.
Before the authorization, the US ambassador to Brazil, Elizabeth Bagley, even pleaded that Iran’s warships should not be allowed to dock.
“These ships, in the past, have facilitated illicit trade and terrorist activities and have already had sanctions from the UN (United Nations). Brazil is a sovereign country, but we strongly believe these ships should not dock anywhere,” she said.
The Iranian regime has a history of good relations with the Latin American left, especially Venezuela. Former Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chávez and former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad established cooperation on developing a nuclear program in Venezuela in the late 2010s.
The Lula administration received Ahmadinejad in Brazil in 2009; months later, Lula was received in Iran by the country’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who remains in office today.
A US State Department spokesman said the Lula administration’s decision on Iranian warships sends the “wrong” message.
“So far, Brazil is the only country in our hemisphere that has accepted a berthing request,” he told the newspaper O Estado de S. Paulo.
Senator Ted Cruz of the Republican party called for sanctions on Brazil.
“The Biden administration is obligated to impose relevant sanctions, reassess Brazil’s cooperation with US counterterrorism efforts, and re-examine whether Brazil maintains effective counterterrorism measures at its ports. If the government fails, Congress must force them to do so,” Cruz said.
Lula’s government has strengthened Brazil’s ties with the Venezuelan dictatorship
In the very first month of his administration.
In January, at the 7th Summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), Lula defended strengthening relations with Venezuelan dictator Nicolás Maduro.
She announced that he would resume diplomatic ties with the dictatorship.
The relationship with Maduro had been suspended during former president Jair Bolsonaro’s (PL) government, but the PT government has already sent a Brazilian diplomatic mission to Caracas.
“Brazil is going to reestablish diplomatic relations with Venezuela. We want it to have an embassy in Brazil and Brazil to have an embassy in Venezuela. We will reestablish civilized relations between two autonomous, free, and independent states,” Lula said in January.
“The problem of Venezuela we will solve with dialogue, not a blockade. We will solve it with dialogue, not with the threat of occupation. We will solve it with dialogue, not with personal offenses,” he added.
Fulfilling this promise, Lula’s government authorized the nomination of the new Venezuelan ambassador to Brazil, Manuel Vadell Aquino, nominated by Maduro in January.
Lula also criticized the former interim president of Venezuela, Juan Guaidó, who was recognized by the democratic international community.
“I see many people asking Maduro for understanding, and these people forget that they did a terrible thing for democracy: to recognize a guy who was not elected, Guaidó. This citizen stayed several months exercising the role of the president without being president. And I keep asking myself: who is wrong?” he commented.
In an interview with O Globo newspaper, Guaidó said that Lula “does a great disservice to democracy by not taking a front position in defense of human rights and democracy.
“If the attack on the Brazilian parliament is deplorable, the attack on the Venezuelan Congress by Maduro is also deplorable,” he said.
“A president with 24 days in office who minimizes or does not speak out about the most severe humanitarian crisis ever seen on the continent, worse than in nations experiencing wars, such as Syria and Ukraine, does not understand Venezuela,” commented the Venezuelan, whose interim government was dissolved by the opposition in December 2022.
Emboldened by the new situation, Maduro recently signaled that he intends to insert Venezuela into the countries interested in adopting a common currency in South America.
“I announce that Venezuela is ready, and we support the initiative to create a Latin American and Caribbean currency,” he said.
In January, Lula and Argentine President Alberto Fernández advocated creating a common South American currency.
LULA ALSO MET WITH THE CUBAN DICTATOR
On January 24, also at the CELAC, Lula met with Cuban dictator Miguel Díaz-Canel in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Lula even shared a photo with Díaz-Canel on social networks and wrote: “Brazil reestablishing its diplomatic relations in the world.
Lula used the occasion to propose the end of the economic embargo against Cuba imposed by the United States.
“Let there be an end to the blockade on Cuba, which has lasted more than 60 years without any need. The Cubans don’t want to copy the Brazilian or United States models; they want to make their own. And who has anything to do with that? So you have to treat Venezuela and Cuba with great affection, and in whatever we can help you solve your problems, we will,” he said.
In a 2021 interview with the Spanish newspaper El País, Lula relativized the repression of protests in Havana against the Cuban dictatorship. “These things happen all over the world. The police beat many people; they are violent,” he said.
“You haven’t seen any soldier in Cuba with his knee on top of a black man’s neck, killing him,” he added about the murder of George Floyd in the US.
After Fidel Castro died in 2016, Lula called him “the greatest of all Latin Americans” and said that the Cuban “was always a voice of struggle and hope” who encouraged “dreams of freedom.”
He also affirmed that he maintained with the dictator “an affectionate and intense relationship, based on the search for paths for the emancipation of our peoples,” and said he felt his death “like the loss of an older brother.”
With information from Gazeta do Povo