November 14, 2019 / 8:14 PM / a month ago

BRICS leaders avoid discussion of Venezuela divisions

BRASILIA (Reuters) - Leaders of the BRICS major emerging economies made no mention of Venezuela during a two-day summit in Brazil’s capital, according to diplomats, putting aside a rift over the fate of the chaotic South American country to focus on global economic issues instead.

South Africa's President Cyril Ramaphosa, China's President Xi Jinping, India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Russia's President Vladimir Putin and Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro pose for a photo at the BRICS summit in Brasilia, Brazil November 14, 2019. Pavel Golovkin/Pool via REUTERS

Among BRICS members at the summit that ended on Thursday, Russia and China back Venezuela’s leftist President Nicolas Maduro. But under right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro, host country Brazil supports opposition leader Juan Guaido as Venezuela’s legitimate leader.

An economic meltdown and political turmoil in Venezuela have sent 4 million refugees flooding across its borders into Brazil and other neighboring countries in a humanitarian crisis that is considered one of Latin America’s top regional security issues.

Yet the final joint declaration approved at the summit of the BRICS countries, which include India and South Africa, did not address Venezuela.

India’s government under Prime Minister Narendra Modi has also stood by Maduro.

“Venezuela is not on the agenda, it is not a topic for this summit,” said Wang Xiaolong, special envoy on BRICS issues for China’s foreign ministry, told reporters following the approval of the declaration.

“As far as I recall it wasn’t discussed by the leaders either during the closed door session or the open keynote.”

Two Brazilian and a South African diplomatic source, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed that Venezuela was not raised in the leaders’ meetings.

A high-profile standoff between Maduro and Guaido supporters across town at the Venezuelan embassy failed to force the issue.

Guaido supporters invaded the embassy, where they held out for 11 hours before the Brazilian government asked them to leave and turn it back over to diplomats loyal to Maduro.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on Thursday the embassy invasion was a “provocation” timed to coincide with a major international event in Brasilia, TASS news agency reported.

In the lead up to the summit, Brazil considered raising the Venezuela issue but ultimately gave up on the idea as there would be no chance of an agreement because of “ideological differences,” one of the Brazilian diplomats said.

The BRICS summit largely focused on common ground on economic and trade issues, with leaders vowing to support free exchange and stand against rising protectionism globally.

Political crises that erupted in recent months in Chile and Bolivia were also not mentioned in the final summit statement, even though it mentioned conflicts in Syria, Yemen, Libya and elsewhere.

Bolivia is another point of contention within BRICS. Russia said the departure of President Evo Morales was a coup, while Brazil welcomed his resignation as a democratic step toward clean elections.

Russia said on Thursday it was ready to work with Bolivia’s new interim leader, Senate Vice President Jeanine Anez, but noted she had come to power without having a full quorum to back her in parliament.

Reporting by Jake Spring, Anthony Boadle and Lisandra Paraguassu; Editing by Tom Brown

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