Maduro and Lula Condemn US Sanctions on Venezuela

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Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and former Brazilian leader Luis Inacio Lula de Silva criticized the United States' imposition of sanctions on Venezuela during a joint press conference on Monday. Maduro expressed his hope that the upcoming South American summit in Brasilia would unite in calling for the removal of these sanctions. Lula characterized the sanctions as "excessively harsh" and accused the US of disregarding Maduro's legitimacy as an elected leader. 

This visit marked Maduro's first trip to Brazil since 2015, taking advantage of the improved relations under the current Brazilian administration. The meeting in Brasilia will bring together 11 South American presidents to address regional issues. Maduro expressed Venezuela's interest in joining the BRICS group of emerging nations, a sentiment that Lula personally supports.

Former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro had previously barred Maduro from entering Brazil when he assumed office in 2019. However, this measure was lifted by Lula after his return to power this year, fostering a new era of dialogue between the neighboring countries.

Lula emphasized the historical significance of this moment, highlighting the lack of communication and cooperation between two Amazon-region neighbors over the years. Among the topics on the agenda, the sizable debt owed by Venezuela to Brazil's National Development Bank was a matter of discussion. Brazilian Finance Minister Fernando Haddad, along with Petrobras President Jean Paul Prates, were scheduled to meet with Maduro and Lula.

Lula further expressed his disagreement with the United States and fellow Social Democrats regarding the legitimacy of Maduro's presidency and the multitude of sanctions imposed on Venezuela. He deemed it absurd to deny Maduro's position as the president of Venezuela.

During the South American summit, all countries except Peru will deliberate on the establishment of a new cooperation bloc to replace the defunct UNASUR, which was initially formed in 2008 during Lula's previous presidency, along with leftist leaders Hugo Chavez of Venezuela and Cristina Kirchner of Argentina. The organization faced challenges as right-wing governments gained power in several South American countries, causing diplomatic divisions across the continent.

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