Brazil’s top diplomat has urged his counterparts in the BRICS grouping of countries -- Russia, India, China, and South Africa -- to listen to Venezuelans' "cry for freedom" and to support that country’s opposition leader in a tense political standoff.
"Brazil has heard that cry. I appeal to you all to listen to it, too," Foreign Minister Ernesto Araujo said on July 26 at the opening session of a BRICS foreign ministers gathering in Rio de Janeiro.
Araujo reiterated his conservative government's support for Juan Guaido, the opposition leader who is struggling for power over socialist President Nicolas Maduro.
Araujo denounced Maduro’s government as "a regime sustained by force" that he said has led to extreme poverty, hunger, and "the exodus of 4 million Venezuelans."
Guaido, who leads the National Assembly, declared himself interim president in January and won support from major powers, including the United States and more than 50 other countries.
Russia and China have expressed support for Maduro, whose government has been the target of street protests led by Guaido and other opposition leaders.
Maduro took office in 2013 and was sworn in for a second term in January following elections in May 2018 that were marred by an opposition boycott and claims of vote-rigging.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov responded to Araujo's remarks by saying the approach to Venezuela should be based on "international law and give support to Venezuelans without external interference, and always with [respect to] the Constitution."
Brazil’s leader, President Jair Bolsonaro, took office in January and has complained about Russia's support of Maduro and suggested allowing a U.S. military presence in Brazil.
The Russian Interfax news agency said that BRICS foreign ministers also discussed tensions in the Persian Gulf and issues related to North Korea, the Middle East, and Afghanistan during their meetings.