Diplomatic Briefing

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Archive for South America

Newsline: Brazilian President met US ambassador just days before testing positive for COVID-19

President Jair Bolsonaro was at the US Embassy in Brasília and closely interacting with America’s top diplomat in the country just days before announcing he’d tested positive for COVID-19. “Everyone knew that it would reach a considerable part of the population sooner or later. It was positive for me,” Bolsonaro said on Tuesday of his most recent COVID-19 test. The Brazilian leader, who has repeatedly downplayed the threat of the virus, had been tested for the virus four times over the past several months. (https://www.businessinsider.com/bolsonaro-with-us-ambassador-just-days-before-covid-19-diagnosis-2020-7) Bolsonaro went to the US Embassy in the Brazilian capital on Saturday for a July 4th celebration. Photos from the event show the Brazilian president sitting close to US ambassador to Brazil Todd Chapman. Based on the images, Bolsonaro and others, including the ambassador, were not wearing face masks at the time.

Newsline: Venezuela to allow EU ambassador to remain in Caracas

Venezuela will allow the European Union’s ambassador to remain in Caracas, reversing an earlier decision to expel the envoy in response to sanctions the bloc imposed on officials loyal to the socialist government, the foreign ministry said on Thursday. (https://www.swissinfo.ch/eng/venezuela-to-allow-eu-ambassador-to-remain-in-caracas—foreign-ministry/45877470) The EU subjected 11 officials to financial sanctions, citing their actions against the democratic functioning of Venezuela’s National Assembly. “Cooperation between both parties can facilitate the path of political dialogue,” said the ministry, adding that Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza and EU Foreign Minister Josep Borrell had spoken about the issue over the phone.

Newsline: Venezuela president orders EU ambassador to leave country following sanctions

Venezuela’s President Nicolás Maduro ordered the EU ambassador Isabel Brilhante Pedrosa to leave the country within 72 hours. Her expulsion came hours after the EU placed sanctions on 11 Venezuelan officials for “undermining democracy and the rule of law in Venezuela.” (https://www.jurist.org/news/2020/07/venezuela-president-orders-eu-ambassador-to-leave-country-following-sanctions/) The sanctions are against those who were “responsible notably for acting against the democratic functioning of the National Assembly,” specifically in the removal of the democratically elected congressional president Juan Guaidó and his subsequent replacement by Maduro’s ally Luis Parra. Despite his removal, Guaidó has maintained the international support of the US and the EU. The sanctions also stated that those included on the involved in “politically motivated prosecutions and creating obstacles to a political and democratic solution to the crisis in Venezuela, as well as serious violations of human rights and restrictions of fundamental freedoms, such as freedom of press and speech.” With the 11 new additions to the list, the new total number of those sanctioned is brought to 36 individuals affected by “a travel ban and an asset freeze.” In a broadcast on state television, Maduro reportedly said, “If they can’t respect Venezuela, then they should leave it.” He also added that “A plane can be loaned for her [Pedrosa] to leave,” because Venezuela’s air space is currently closed due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The EU has not yet provided any formal comment on the situation. Pedrosa has not yet left the country.

Newsline: Man crashes car into gate of Chinese embassy in Argentina

A man drove a car into the front gate of the Chinese Embassy in Buenos Aires on Monday, prompting a major response by police, officials said. There were no injuries reported, though the crash did severely damage embassy property, according to a statement shared with Reuters by the Chinese Embassy. Multiple police units responded to the scene, and officers blocked off the street in front of the embassy. The driver of the car is Argentine, though his identity and the reason for the crash is under investigation, the embassy said. “The Argentine Police quickly went to the diplomatic headquarters and is now investigating the identity and motives of the actor in incident,” the embassy’s statement said. (https://www.reuters.com/article/us-argentina-china/man-crashes-car-into-gate-of-chinese-embassy-in-argentina-idUSKBN23U06I) Federal and city police did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Argentina’s Foreign Ministry declined comment.

Newsline: Chile to shut down its embassies in Greece, Denmark, Algeria, Syria and Romania

The Chilean ambassadors of Greece, Denmark, Algeria, Syria and Romania were informed, that they will have to finish their affairs before the end of the year, 24 Horas reported. The closure of the embassies are occurring in order to provide a greater national presence in Brussels, considered the unofficial capital of the European Union, as well as in Vienna (Austria). (https://greekcitytimes.com/2020/06/08/chile-to-shut-down-its-embassy-in-athens/) The measure was taken by Foreign Minister Teodoro Ribera, after the Strategic Planning Directorate asked to evaluate the political, economic and development relevance of the different nations where Chile has embassies.

Newsline: Protectors of the Venezuelan Embassy declare victory after federal charges are dropped

Federal charges against the four protectors of the Venezuelan Embassy, who defended the building in Washington DC against violent opposition crowds for several weeks between April 10 and May 16 of 2019, were completely dropped in a case that was brought directly by prosecutors of the Trump administration. After several months of proceedings that produced a mistrial in February 2020, the four activists expressed in a public statement that “Today’s sentence marks yet another victory in the effort to protect the Venezuelan Embassy. The Embassy Protection Collective broke through the blockade and got supplies to the people inside; the people inside prevented the coup supporters from staying in the embassy; the embassy was not turned over to Guaidó—it remains empty today—and now the federal charges have been dropped.” (http://www.coha.org/protectors-of-the-venezuelan-embassy-declare-victory-after-federal-charges-are-dropped/) The federal charges the US Government prosecutors were seeking, “interfering with certain protective functions,” were dropped entirely. The defenders were found guilty of a minor charge, “incommoding,” which corresponds to “causing a disturbance,” and falls under local DC jurisdiction. These charges resulted in a penalty of six months’ probation and a $500 fine. Under the federal charges, the defenders were risking one year in jail and up to $100,000 in fines. Last February, Trump administration prosecutors were unable to convince the jury that retired nurse practitioner David Paul, lawyer Kevin Zeese, pediatrician Margaret Flowers and academic Dr. Adrienne Pine, broke any law during their stay at the Venezuelan Embassy while protecting it by request of the legitimate Venezuelan government of Nicolás Maduro.

Newsline: China’s Diplomats Are Going on the Offensive in Brazil

The major Brazilian newspaper O Globo published an op-ed by Li Yang, China’s consul general in Rio de Janeiro, in response to comments made by Member of Congress Eduardo Bolsonaro, President Jair Bolsonaro’s son, in which he referred to the novel coronavirus as the “China virus.” Readers likely expected a run-of-the-mill article underlining the importance of China-Brazil ties, perhaps with a light slap on the wrist. But Li had something else in mind entirely. Attacking the Brazilian lawmaker harshly, the Chinese diplomat wondered whether Bolsonaro had been “brainwashed by the United States,” a nation that, Li pointed out, had offered a “horrible performance” in the combat against the pandemic. The author then threatened the member of Congress, writing that “should any country insist on being China’s enemy, we will be its most sophisticated enemy!” (https://foreignpolicy.com/2020/05/15/chinas-diplomats-are-going-on-the-offensive-in-brazil/) Until very recently, it would have been unthinkable for a Chinese government envoy to publish such a broadside against an elected official in Brazil. Newspaper interviews with Chinese diplomats are traditionally formal and have generated virtually no visibility—the exact opposite of Li’s bombshell, which circulated widely. On Twitter, the Chinese Embassy in Brazil—which during the recent spats with the president’s son briefly overtook its U.S. counterpart in terms of the number of followers—now directly lashes out against anyone who dares to criticize China and, in an unmistakable swipe against President Bolsonaro, publicized a meeting in early April between Ambassador Yang Wanming and Brazil’s then-Minister of Health Luiz Henrique Mandetta, who was at the time one of the president’s most formidable political foes. (Mandetta was sacked 10 days later.) The ambassador’s decision to meet the minister of health to discuss the pandemic at a moment when Mandetta was publicly clashing with Brazil’s president on how to combat the coronavirus was widely interpreted as Beijing taking a clear stance against Bolsonaro’s denialism. To grasp how dramatic this shift in China’s diplomatic strategy is, it is worth remembering Beijing’s very different response to a previous crisis two years ago. When then-presidential candidate Jair Bolsonaro visited Taiwan and attacked China on the campaign trail in early 2018—promising, via Twitter, to break with, as he described it, previous governments’ habit of being “friendly with communists”—the Chinese Embassy in Brasília opted for a measured response and issued a letter of protest typical for such occasions.

Newsline: France accuses Venezuela of harassing Caracas embassy, summons envoy

France has summoned Venezuela’s envoy over accusations President Nicolas Maduro’s government has been harassing its embassy in Caracas, including by cutting water and electricity to the ambassador’s residence, diplomats said on Thursday. France is among dozens of nations which do not recognise Maduro’s disputed 2018 re-election and consider opposition leader Juan Guaido to be Venezuela’s rightful president. Maduro has previously accused French ambassador Romain Nadal of meddling in internal affairs, and diplomats say the services to his home in Caracas have been cut since the start of May. “France strongly condemns the measures taken in recent days, which hinder the normal functioning of our diplomatic mission in Caracas,” deputy foreign ministry spokesman Olivier Gauvin said in a statement, adding that the measures contravened the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations. (https://www.france24.com/en/20200514-france-accuses-venezuela-of-harassing-caracas-embassy-summons-envoy) “French officials expect these measures to be rescinded without delay in order to restore normal operations at our diplomatic mission.”

Newsline: Venezuela’s opposition leader Guaido taking refuge in European embassy after coup attempt

Diosdado Cabello, the number two man in the Venezuelan government said opposition leader Juan Guaido is taking refuge in a European embassy to avoid arrest by the prosecutor’s office. “He has already chosen the embassy where he wants to go, it is European. He knows what I am talking about because he already sent some suitcases,” Cabello said during a television show. “What will those suitcases have?” (https://nation.com.pk/08-May-2020/venezuela-s-opposition-leader-guaido-taking-refuge-in-european-embassy-after-coup-attempt) Guaido is accused by the Nicolas Maduro government of being linked to a failed raid and several attempts at a “coup d’état” in the last two years, for which he was called to testify before the prosecutor’s office last March but did not appear. The government said the raids that led to the capture of two American “mercenaries” were intended to assassinate Maduro. Maduro said the attack led to 15 arrests and eight fatalities by state security forces. He described it as a plot coordinated with Washington to enter the country via the Caribbean coast to oust him.

Newsline: Brazil’s top court blocks Bolsonaro move to expel Venezuelan diplomats

A Supreme Court judge issued an injunction on Saturday suspending for 10 days a decision by Brazil’s right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro to expel Venezuela’s 30 diplomats and consular staff. Bolsonaro and Brazil’s Foreign Ministry had given Venezuela until Saturday to remove its diplomats in the latest chapter of worsening relations between the ideologically opposed neighbors. Justice Luis Roberto Barroso took up an injunction request from a Workers Party lawmaker that argued the expulsion could violate Brazil’s Constitution, international agreements on human rights and the Vienna Convention on diplomatic relations. Bolsonaro said in a Twitter post that he had decided on the “compulsory withdrawal of Venezuelan diplomatic corps” and he criticized the injunction sought by lawmaker Paulo Pimenta. (https://www.reuters.com/article/us-brazil-venezuela/brazils-top-court-blocks-bolsonaro-move-to-expel-venezuelan-diplomats-idUSKBN22E0VG) Barroso said the immediate ejection of the diplomats in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic countered humanitarian principles. The consular personnel are based in the cities of Brasilia, Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Manaus, Belem and Boa Vista. Brazil withdrew the remainder of its diplomats from Caracas on April 17 and the Bolsonaro government had expected Venezuela to do the same by May 2, citing a verbal agreement on a reciprocal move to close each countries’ missions, Brazilian officials said. But Venezuela’s leftist government said in a statement on Thursday that there had been no such negotiation and that its diplomats would stay put. Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza accused Brazil in a Twitter post of violating international law by forcing its diplomatic personnel to leave.