Brazil’s pro-US govt. recalls diplomats from Venezuela

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Brazil's right-wing recalls diplomats, officials from Venezuela

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro (C) speaks during a ceremony at the Planalto Palace in the capital Brasilia, March 3, 2020. (Photo by AFP)

In a move to further downgrade relations with Venezuela, Brazil’s far-right government of President Jair Bolsonaro has begun pulling out all its diplomats from Caracas, while calling on President Nicolas Maduro to recall his country’s representatives from Brasilia.

According to instructions published on Thursday, Bolsonaro removed five diplomats and 11 members of consular staff in Caracas, including Consul General Elza de Castro and two minister counselors at the embassy.

"No-one will remain in all of Venezuela," said a government source.

Citing the foreign ministry, the Official Journal said that staff would be withdrawn from the embassy and the consulate in Caracas, the consulate in Ciudad Guayana and the vice consulate in Santa Elena de Uairen, on the Brazilian border.

According to Brazilian media, the recall will be done within two months. The measure, however, does not mean the embassy will be closed, but an estimated 10,000 Brazilians who are currently living in Venezuela could be affected.

"The Brazilian government is considering how assistance will be provided," the source said.

Brazil's government, a US ally, has announced the decision just days before Bosonaro leaves the country for an official visit to the United States.

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The far-right president, who has been nicknamed the "Trump of the Tropics" and is known as an admirer of his American counterpart, followed Washington in recognizing Venezuela’s opposition figure Juan Guaido as the country’s leader last year.

Venezuela’s embassy in Brasilia has not had an ambassador since 2016, when the last Maduro-appointed ambassador was withdrawn from the country. The embassy is controlled by Maduro representatives.

Back in November, around a dozen Guaido supporters invaded Venezuela's embassy, but had to leave 13 hours later under pressure from Brazilian authorities.

Guaido is blamed for a political crisis in Venezuela when he unilaterally declared himself “interim president” of the country in January last year, rejecting the outcome of the May 2018 election, which Maduro had won.

Guaido later launched an abortive coup against the elected government.

His self-proclamation as president and his coup received backing from Washington, which has since been carrying out a pressure campaign against Maduro’s government and has urged the armed forces to turn against him.

The US administration, which has imposed several rounds of sanctions on the country, has also confiscated the country’s state oil assets based in the US in order to channel them to Guaido.

Bolsonaro has also formally recognized Guaido’s envoy, Maria Tereza Belandria, as Venezuela’s ambassador in Brasilia.

The US and another of its allies in the region, Colombia, had already shut down their embassies in Caracas, expelled Maduro’s diplomats, and accepted envoys aligned with Guaido as ambassadors.

But European countries have continued to host Maduro officials and maintained a diplomatic presence in the country.

Mexican firm takes Venezuelan crude in oil-for-food swap

Amid tightening US sanctions, Venezuela has swapped millions of barrels of crude for supplies of corn and water trucks under an oil-for-food deal struck with a privately-owned Mexican firm.

The company, Libre Abordo SA, has so far taken 6.2 million barrels of Venezuelan heavy crude for resale in international markets and has two more cargoes of crude oil and fuel due to be loaded this month, according to export schedules.

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In a statement seen by Reuters, Libre Abordo said it had signed a contract last year to export Mexican corn and water trucks to Venezuela in return for supplies of oil and that the contract was still in effect.

"Based on the information we have received, it appears that Libre's acquisition of title to PDVSA cargo in satisfaction of the pre-existing debt obligations occurred entirely outside of US primary sanctions jurisdiction," the lawyers said in their analysis.

Venezuela has been struggling under severe economic contraction, hyperinflation, power cuts, and shortages of basic items as a result of US economic sanctions, a situation that has prompted millions of people to flee to neighboring countries.

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