Brazil's Lula seeks dialogue with both Venezuelan government and opposition
By Lisandra Paraguassu
BRASILIA (Reuters) - The Brazilian president's top foreign policy adviser has met with Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro in the first outreach by Brazil's new leftist administration to both the government and its opposition.
The visit to Maduro on Wednesday by adviser Celso Amorim was organized in secrecy by Brazil and only became public when Maduro posted photos on Twitter.
On Thursday Amorim, a former foreign minister who advises President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva on international affairs, met with opponents of Maduro, including Gerardo Blyde, a lawyer who leads the opposition's negotiations with the Venezuelan government, sources in Brasilia told Reuters.
The sources, Brazilian government officials with knowledge of the Venezuelan mission, said the trip was kept secret to avoid speculation about its goal: to establish dialogue with both sides before Venezuela's general elections next year.
Amorim's visit was the first by a high-level official in recent years to meet openly in Venezuela with both Maduro and the opposition.
Lula restored diplomatic relations with Venezuela as soon as he took office on Jan. 1, ties that had been broken off by his far-right predecessor Jair Bolsonaro.
But Lula has expressed concern about the lack of free elections and an alternation of power in Venezuela, a member of OPEC beset by an economic and political crisis.
Maduro again won elections in 2018 that were criticized by international observers on suspicions of fraud, vote buying and hurdles for opposition candidates.
Lula sees himself as becoming a good mediator in the Venezuelan conflict, given his leftist credential and past relationships with Venezuela and its late leader Hugo Chavez.
"We need to treat Venezuela with respect, while wanting it to be as democratic as possible. I defend the alternation of power not just for me, but for Venezuela as well," he told foreign reporters in 2022 while campaigning for president.
(Reporting by Lisandra Paraguassu; writing by Anthony Boadle; editing by Grant McCool)