A group of supporters of Venezuelan President Juan Guaidó moved in the Venezuelan Embassy in Brazil on Wednesday after a Guaidó official claimed diplomats there had renounced dictator Nicolás Maduro.
In a statement posted on Twitter, Juan Guaidó’s envoy to Brazil María Teresa Belandria alleged that a “group of officials from Maduro’s Venezuelan embassy in Brazil decided to recognize the Guaidó as their president.”
“They opened the doors and voluntarily handed over the diplomatic headquarters to the representation legitimately accredited in Brazil by the Interim Government,” the statement read.
#Ahora Grupo de funcionarios de la embajada de Venezuela de Maduro en Brasil, decidió reconocer al Pdte @jguaido. Abrieron las puertas y entregaron la sede diplomática de manera voluntaria a la representación legítimamente acreditada en Brasil por el Gobierno Interino. pic.twitter.com/mOfwV09IH6
— Carla Angola TV (@carlaangola) November 13, 2019
Embassy official Tomás Silva said in a video published on social media that the claim was true – diplomats had renounced the Maduro regime and would recognize Guaidó as president.
#13Nov El ministro consejero de la embajada de Venezuela en Brasil, Tomás Silva, indica que la mañana de este miércoles, funcionarios de Maduro reconocieron al presidente (E) @jguaido y les hicieron la entrega de la sede diplomática en Brasil. #TVVenezuela #TVVNoticias pic.twitter.com/vCuyiR9tXn
— TVVenezuela Noticias (@TVVnoticias) November 13, 2019
Guaidó supporters in Brazil convened at the embassy to celebrate the news, prompting leftist claims of an “invasion” of the property.
Maduro consulate charge d’affaires Freddy Meregote stayed loyal to the socialist regime, declaring that the building had been “invaded” and asked the Brazilian government to provide protection.
Meregote contacted local Worker’s Party Deputy Paulo Pimenta and left-wing organizations for support. Pimenta and local Maduro supporters soon turned up at the site to protest what they described as an illegal invasion.
Although the two sides were arguing, there were no immediate indications of violence. A representative from Brazil’s Foreign Affairs Ministry later arrived on the scene to speak to both sides, while around 20 police officers were also called to help restore calm.
The Maduro regime’s Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza took to Twitter to announce that the “facilities of our embassy in Brasilia were invaded by force in the early morning.”
“We hold the Government of Brazil responsible for the safety of our staff and facilities,” he wrote. “We also demand respect for the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.”
Denunciamos que las instalaciones de nuestra embajada en Brasilia fueron invadidas por la fuerza en la madrugada. Hacemos responsable al Gobierno de Brasil por la seguridad de nuestro personal e instalaciones.Exigimos respeto a la Convención de Viena sobre Relaciones Diplomáticas
— Jorge Arreaza M (@jaarreaza) November 13, 2019
Brazil is one of the majority of western democracies to recognize Juan Guaidó as the legitimate president of Venezuela following his appointment by the country’s National Assembly in January. His appointment was a response to Maduro being inaugurated for another six-year term after successfully rigging the results of last year’s presidential election in his favor.
Despite recognizing Guaidó as president, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro did not support the crowds surrounding the embassy. In a statement via his security advisors, he claimed he was unaware of the plan, accusing his opponents of “taking advantage of events to generate disorder and instability.”
“The President of the Republic has never been aware of, much less encouraged, the invasion of the Embassy of Venezuela by supporters of Mr. Juan Guaidó,” the statement read.
Posting on Facebook, Bolsonaro also announced that he had “already taken the necessary steps to safeguard order in accordance with the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.”
The incident threatened to create a diplomatic crisis on the first day of the BRICS summit of the world’s major emerging economies (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa), held in the Brazilian capital. Both Russia and China are staunch backers of the Maduro regime, providing financial, military, and even humanitarian support to bolster its position.
Relations between Brazil and Venezuela have been strained ever since the former’s leftist president Dilma Rousseff was impeached and removed from office in 2016. However, relations have deteriorated further since the election of conservative firebrand Jair Bolsonaro, who has backed U.S.-led efforts to oust the Maduro regime from power through a range of economic sanctions.
Bolsonaro also uninvited Venezuela and Cuba from his presidential inauguration in January, declaring that regimes that “violate the freedoms of their peoples and act openly against the future government of Brazil” would not be welcome at the ceremony.
Maduro has described Bolsonaro as a “modern-day Hitler,” suggesting that the Brazilian people will eventually “take care of him.”
“There we have Brazil, in the hands of a fascist … Bolsonaro is Hitler in modern times,” Maduro said this year. “Let’s leave the Bolsonaro to the beautiful Brazilian people who will fight and take care of him.”