Maduro and Lula criticized the US sanctions against Venezuela

BRASILIA (Reuters) – Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and Luiz Inacio Lula de Silva on Monday attacked US sanctions against Venezuela and Maduro said he hoped a South American regional summit in Brasilia would call for their exclusion.

Lula called the US sanctions “extremely excessive” and criticized the United States for denying the legitimacy of his leftist compatriot Maduro, whom Washington considers an authoritarian leader who has not allowed free elections.

Maduro was on his first visit to Brazil since 2015, benefiting from warming ties before 11 South American presidents meet in Brasilia on Tuesday.

The Venezuelan president also said his country wants to be part of the BRICS group of leading emerging countries, which Lula said he would personally prefer.

Former far-right Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro banned Maduro from entering Brazil when he took office in 2019, a measure Lula lifted when he returned to power this year.

“We are living in a historic moment… It is hard to believe that so many years have passed without dialogue with a neighbor with whom we share the Amazon,” Lula told a joint news conference.

Brazilian officials said that among the issues on their agenda is the large debt that Venezuela has launched with the Brazilian National Development Bank. They added that Brazilian Finance Minister Fernando Haddad is set to meet with Maduro and Lula, and the head of state oil company Petrobras, Jean-Paul Pratis.

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Lula said he argued with the United States and fellow social democrats about Maduro’s legitimacy and the “900 punishments” facing Venezuela. “I think it is really absurd that they deny that Maduro is the president of Venezuela,” he said.

The presidents of South America, all but Peru, will discuss the launch of a cooperation bloc in place of the dissolved UNASUR, which was created in 2008 during the previous presidency of Lula with the leftist leaders of the time of Venezuela and Argentina, Hugo Chavez and. Christina Kirchner, respectively.

The organization foundered when several countries in South America elected right-wing governments, causing diplomatic rifts on the continent.

(Reporting) By Anthony Bodel, Lisandra Paraguaso and Gabriel Araujo; Editing by Nick Zieminski and Grant McCall

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