Boric, before the South American support for Maduro: "The situation of human rights in Venezuela is not a narrative construction"

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The diplomatic rehabilitation of the president of Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro, has culminated, at least on a regional scale, who this Tuesday was received as an equal by the South American heads of state, gathered at an informal summit in Brasilia called by Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. The purpose of the meeting was not to promote South American integration, blown up in recent years by ideological polarization. Venezuela has marked the first face-off between South American presidents in nine years. Everyone has celebrated Maduro's return to international forums, but the leftist Gabriel Boric, from Chile, and the rightist Luis Lacalle Pou, from Uruguay, have made clear their -respectful- criticism of their Venezuelan counterpart and the responsibility of Chavismo in the crisis that sank his country.

The Chilean president has stressed, upon leaving the conclave, that welcoming the Venezuelan does not mean a blank check or forgetting. "We are happy that Venezuela returns to multilateral instances [,,,] That, however, cannot mean sweeping principles important to us under the rug.” Boric has told the press that he has respectfully expressed his discrepancy with some of the words pronounced the day before by Lula. “The human rights situation is not a narrative construction, it is a serious reality”, he stressed. A speech, that of Lula, that raised blisters in the country and outside it and that the Brazilian president has repeated in his appearance after the summit. Meanwhile, for Boric, respect for human rights is non-negotiable, regardless of the color of the ruler who violates them.

At the exit, Maduro told the press that the summit is "a starting point for a new stage." “I have no problem speaking frankly with any political force, with any president, with any current. […] as long as it is from respect”. With the stage of Juan Guaidó as interim president closed in the last year, many countries, including neighbors, are restoring relations with Chavista Venezuela.

In addition to Lula, the meeting was attended by Alberto Fernández (Argentina), Luis Arce (Bolivia), Gabriel Boric (Chile), Gustavo Petro (Colombia), Guillermo Lasso (Ecuador), Irfaan Ali (Guyana), Mario Abdo Benítez (Paraguay ), Cha Santokhi (Suriname), Luis Lacalle Pou (Uruguay), Nicolás Maduro (Venezuela) and on behalf of Peru, its Prime Minister, Luis Alberto Otárola, so that this meeting, varied in terms of ideology, is an encounter without a president.

In the family photo, the Venezuelan Maduro is on the far left, next to the presidents of Suriname and Guyana. In the center, Lula, Fernández, Arce, Petro and Boric. To promote trust and frank dialogue, each president has attended with his chancellor and one or two advisers.

Lula has also admitted that the times in which he coincided in power with Hugo Chávez, Néstor Kirchner, Evo Morales or Rafael Correa have passed and that now the region is more plural. "We need to learn to live with that plurality because it means exercising democracy to the last consequences."

From the right flank, the Uruguayan Luis Lacalle Pou, has also expressed his surprise that Lula on Monday attributed Venezuela's ills to a narrative. The president, who like Boric and other leaders, has recently reopened his embassy in Caracas, has called attention to some of the high principles included in the final declaration, when it was still in the negotiation phase: "When we put the signature, we do not have [todos los presentes] the same definition, which I think is one, that of the Royal Spanish Academy, of what respect for institutions, human rights and democracy are. The text has been approved by acclamation. And both Boric and Lacalle have insisted on thanking Lula for hosting the meeting and for organizing it.

Lula, who with half a century of politics behind him is the dean of the presidents of the southern cone, has also brought his counterparts together to get to know them better. Personal contact is his forte. He wants them to put aside their undeniable ideological differences, cooperate more and find a mechanism to act together on global and local challenges. As planned, only the Peruvian president Dina Boluarte has been missing, who cannot leave her country because she does not have a vice president to replace her.

Before the official dinner, Lula appeared before the journalists to evaluate the day. In the midst of elaborate responses in which she cotangently goes back to moments of her long political life, she has summarized in a forceful sentence why the need for the southern cone to function as a block. "Either we meet to fight among ourselves and defend our interests together, or we are puppets in the hands of the big economies," he proclaimed before reiterating his conviction that it is time to promote alternative currencies to the dollar in trade relations and, why No, create a currency of its own for South America or for the BRICS, the club of emerging countries that includes China, Russia, India and South Africa.

Lula opened the meeting with the recognition of a failure: “In the region, we let ideologies divide us and interrupt the integration effort. We abandoned the channels of dialogue and cooperation mechanisms and, with that, we all lost”.

Gone is the previous mandate in Brazil in which, with the far-right Jair Bolsonaro in the Presidency, Brazil became an international pariah. Lula has not hidden that she would like to revive Unasur, but not everyone agrees. They have agreed to create a commission of foreign ministers that will offer them options in 120 days.

Although Unasur was born as a club of all the South American countries in the midst of a wave of left-wing governments 15 years ago, the turn to the right that the South American electorate took as of 2018 resulted in the fright of more than half of its members, who created a club of conservatives, Prosur. It would be about overcoming the stage of entities converted into clubs of friends of the left or right to organize themselves in the African Union or European Union style. The host stressed that together they would be the fifth largest economy in the world. Among the proposals, even an Erasmus student exchange.

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