'Liberate' Venezuela from Maduro, urges Bolsonaro ally

To bomb or not to bomb…

The incoming foreign minister under Brazil’s far-right president-elect, Jair Bolsonaro, has called on the international community to unite to “liberate” Venezuela from the rule of its authoritarian leftist leader, Nicolás Maduro.

Ernesto Araújo, a pro-Trump climate change sceptic, made the appeal on Sunday as he announced that Maduro was not being invited to Bolsonaro’s inauguration next month “out of respect for the Venezuelan people”.

“Maduro has no place at a celebration of democracy,” Araújo tweeted. “All of the world’s countries must stop supporting him and come together to liberate Venezuela.”

However, Venezuela’s foreign minister, Jorge Arreaza, hit back on Twitter, publishing two letters, purportedly from Brazil’s foreign ministry, that appeared to show Maduro had in fact been invited.

Arreaza also tweeted what he said was Venezuela’s official response, a stinging rebuke to Bolsonaro that read: “The socialist, revolutionary and free government of Venezuela would never attend the inauguration of a president who is the epitome of intolerance, fascism and the surrender to interests that go against Latin American and Caribbean integration.”

The start of Bolsonaro’s four-year term on 1 January portends a fractious new phase in relations between Brazil and its crisis-stricken northern neighbour.

Bolsonaro, whose election campaign was built partly on a pledge to rout socialism, is famed for his attacks on Maduro and the “despicable and murderous ideology”he believes he represents. In an interview last year, Bolsonaro pledged to “do whatever is possible to see that government deposed”.

Such declarations have gone down badly in Caracas. Last week Maduro accused Bolsonaro’s running mate, Hamilton Mourão, of plotting a “crazy” invasion of Venezuela as part of a wider conspiracy to assassinate him allegedly being concocted by the White House.

Arreaza said such an intervention would be repelled with “the mother of all battles”.

Like his boss, Araújo has strong views on Maduro’s Venezuela, which he has compared on his blog to Stalin’s Soviet Union and Chairman Mao’s China.

In September Araújo reproduced a Donald Trump address in which the US president denounced “the socialist Maduro regime and its Cuban sponsors”. Trump said: “All nations of the world should resist socialism and the misery that it brings to everyone.”

Bolsonaro’s son Eduardo, who is poised to play a key role in Brazil’s foreign policy, has been even more hawkish, working with a group of rightwing Venezuelan dissidents who seek Maduro’s overthrow by military force. “The end is nearing,” he tweeted at Venezuela’s president this week.

In an interview with Chile’s La Tercera newspaper Eduardo Bolsonaro insisted Brazil was not about to invade Venezuela with tanks but said the best solution to the crisis was Maduro’s removal from power.

“I do not want him to die, I would like to see him go to another country,” he said.

Bolsonaro loyalists cheered the decision not to invite Maduro to Brasília. Janaína Paschoal, a politician from his Social Liberal party, said “bloodthirsty dictators” were not welcome. “If Maduro comes into Brazil he should be arrested for the crimes against humanity he is habitually committing.”