In U-Turn, Venezuela’s Maduro Allows Brazil to Repatriate Staff

Samy Adghirni

(Bloomberg) -- Brazil airlifted its diplomatic staff from Venezuela following tense negotiations with President Nicolas Maduro, who had initially denied authorization for a Brazilian air force plane to land in Caracas.

A Hercules C-130 cargo aircraft took off from the Venezuelan capital on Friday and is on its way to Brasilia with 50 people on board, mostly embassy and consulate employees and their families, Brazil’s Defense and Foreign Affairs ministries said in a joint statement. A dozen Brazilian citizens stuck in Venezuela are also being brought home as part of repatriation efforts during the coronavirus pandemic.

The airlifting had been agreed between Brasilia and Caracas earlier this week, but on Wednesday Venezuelan military officials told the Brazilian embassy a permit to land would no longer be provided, without providing a reason. A solution was eventually brokered by senior military officials from both countries, according to two people familiar with the discussions.

The comings and goings on the flight permission reflect conflicting views within the Maduro administration, the people said.

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, a U.S. ally, recognizes opposition leader Juan Guaido as the legitimate leader of Venezuela and has given Guaido’s envoy in Brasilia full ambassador status.

Brazil was on track to withdraw its personnel in Venezuela even before the pandemic. In February, the country decided to remove its diplomatic personnel from the country in an attempt to increase Maduro’s isolation. But the move was set up as a gradual process in which diplomats and other employees would use then-available commercial flights.

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