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Thursday, November 26, 2020

Brazil to close Caracas Embassy in bid to further isolate Maduro

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(Bloomberg) Brazil plans to withdraw its diplomatic personnel from Venezuela in the latest attempt to increase the isolation of the government of Nicolas Maduro, a senior official said.

The official, who’s directly involved in the process but isn’t allowed to discuss it publicly, said Brazilian and pro-Maduro officials will start discussing their respective diplomatic representations as early as next week. Brazil expects to withdraw its officials from Caracas in two months, the person said.

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, a U.S. ally, recognizes opposition leader Juan Guaido as the legitimate leader of Venezuela and has provided Guaido’s envoy in Brasilia full ambassador status. The U.S. campaign to try to oust Maduro with economic sanctions, diplomatic isolation and backing for Guaido has so far failed to dislodge the Venezuelan leader, who has remained solidly entrenched and with the apparent support of his military.

Guaido also enjoys the backing of Colombia and dozens of other U.S. allies, but has so-far failed to make much headway back home. Last April, Guaido tried to lead an uprising against the Maduro which collapsed after most of the armed forces declined to join. Despite this, Maduro has refrained from arresting Guaido, possibly fearing the U.S. reaction.

Diplomatic pressure remains a key element of the strategy to topple Maduro, even though Guaido’s campaign appears to have lost momentum in recent months, the official said. There are currently around 15 foreign ministry employees and attaches in the Caracas embassy.

Bolsonaro has refrained from expelling diplomats loyal to Maduro who remain in Brazil, mostly on expired accreditations. That has left officials on both sides struggling to abide by diplomatic conventions or handle consular issues.

While the plan is to effectively shut down the embassy, Brazil seeks to maintain a limited presence in Venezuela to assist with nationals’ consular needs and preserve Brazilian assets in the country, including the ambassador’s residence.

The person said Brazil doesn’t plan to expel Maduro officials in Brasilia but expects a reciprocal move from the Venezuelan leader after Brazilian diplomats leave Caracas.

Brazil’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs declined to comment. Venezuela’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs didn’t immediately reply to an email seeking comment sent outside normal business hours.

Venezuelan diplomats posted abroad have been struggling since 2019, when more than 50 countries stated that Maduro’s re-election was rigged and declared Guaido, the president of the National Assembly, as the nation’s president.

Countries including the U.S. and Colombia shut down their embassies in Caracas, expelled Maduro’s diplomats, and accepted envoys aligned with Guaido as ambassadors. While also recognizing Guaido, European countries have continued to host Maduro officials and maintained a diplomatic presence in Venezuela.

In many countries, including Brazil, diplomats loyal to Maduro have struggled to receive their salaries because of U.S.-imposed financial sanctions.

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