BRASILIA (Reuters) – Brazil’s Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva would like to see free elections in Venezuela and a democratic alternation of power like his country enjoys, the former President and current leftist presidential candidate said on Monday.
However, Lula added he did not agree with Western countries recognizing former National Assembly Speaker and opposition leader Juan Guaido as Venezuela’s legitimate leader after the disputed re-election of President Nicolas Maduro in 2018.
“We need to treat Venezuela with respect, always wanting Venezuela to be as democratic as possible,” he said in a news conference with foreign correspondents as he campaigns to return to office in the October elections.
Lula was imprisoned in 2018 on a bribery conviction and served 19 months in jail. He has maintained his innocence and said the case against him was politically motivated.
His view on Venezuela differs from his far-right rival and incumbent Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who followed the United States in backing Guaido and breaking off diplomatic ties with the Maduro government.
Lula has been held to task for not criticizing human rights abuses in Nicaragua, Cuba and Venezuela. If he wins in October, he is expected to restore relations with Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, a historic ally of his Workers Party.
“Brazil will treat Venezuela with respect. I hope that the European Union will treat Venezuela with respect and that the United States will re-establish relations with Venezuela,” Lula told foreign reporters.
Lula praised what he called the rapprochement between Washington and Caracas under the Biden administration.
“I hope it’s not just for oil,” he added.
With the oil demand shock caused by the Ukraine war, the United States has eased sanctions on Venezuela’s oil production.
(Reporting by Lisandra Paraguassu and Anthony Boadle; Editing by Josie Kao)