Rightwing Venezuelan exiles hope Brazil’s Bolsonaro will help US invade | Sunday Observer

Rightwing Venezuelan exiles hope Brazil’s Bolsonaro will help US invade

President-elect Jair Bolsonaro, who takes power on 1 January, is famed for his loathing off Venezuela’s leader, Nicolás Maduro.   Pic: Heuler Andrey/AFP/Getty Images
President-elect Jair Bolsonaro, who takes power on 1 January, is famed for his loathing off Venezuela’s leader, Nicolás Maduro. Pic: Heuler Andrey/AFP/Getty Images

Some believe the rise of Jair Bolsonaro, Brazil’s next president, makes a US-led military intervention in Venezuela more likely

Dec 14: Venezuelan dissident Roderick Navarro remembers shedding tears of joy when the far-right firebrand Jair Bolsonaro was confirmed as Brazil’s next president.

“It was the first time in so long that I felt the real possibility of going back to my home,” says the rightwing activist exiled to Brazil since fleeing his country last year.

Bolsonaro, who takes power on 1 January, is famed for his loathing for Venezuela’s leader, Nicolás Maduro, and the “despicable and murderous ideology” he believes Maduro represents. Last year Bolsonaro vowed to “do whatever is possible to see that government deposed” – a pledge that delighted anti-Maduro agitators such as Navarro.

Members of Brazil’s incoming administration have softened that discourse since Bolsonaro’s stunning October triumph. “It’s the Venezuelans who must solve the Venezuelans’ problems,” his vice-president, Hamilton Mourão, told the magazine Piauí recently.

Even so, there are those – including within Maduro’s own ranks - who believe Bolsonaro’s rise makes a US-led military intervention to dethrone Venezuela’s president more likely.

In October, a leading Brazilian newspaper quoted a senior Colombian source as saying Bolsonaro would have its backing if he moved to “bring down” Maduro by force, although both governments quickly denied the report.

This week, Maduro accused the White House of plotting his assassination and also claimed Bolsonaro’s inner circle was planning “a military adventure against the Venezuelan people”.

“Every day the vice-president says he’s going to invade Venezuela,” Maduro said of Mourão, Brazil’s former military attaché in Caracas, claiming he had “the face of a madman” and was a “crazy coward”.

Phil Gunson, a Caracas-based Crisis Group analyst, said that despite Bolsonaro’s hard-line rhetoric he was “obviously not going to invade unilaterally”.

But it was possible the future leader of Latin America’s biggest democracy might provide diplomatic cover to some kind of US action.

“He’s clearly very, very keen to bring Brazil absolutely into the sphere of influence of Trumpismo,” Gunson said. “So presumably if Trump said: ‘Look next week we are going to invade Venezuela – are you in?” Then Bolsonaro might well say: “Well, yeah, OK – let’s go for it.”

Donald Trump has warned there are “many options”, including a military one, to deal with Venezuela’s collapse, responsible for the most severe migration crisis in modern Latin American history.

Navarro – whose group, Rumbo Libertad, supports Maduro’s overthrow and says it is part of Venezuela’s anti-government ‘resistencia’ – denied he was banking on a Bolsonarian blitz.

“Lots of media are saying this military intervention might be done by the US or even by Bolsonaro himself. But this isn’t how it will be.

It won’t be like the 20th century,” said Navarro, 31, who fled Venezuela in August 2017 after supporting a failed military uprising.

Since arriving in Brazil, Navarro has cultivated close ties with the Bolsonaro clan, meeting the future president for the first time in Brasília last year to discuss the Venezuelan crisis and rightwing politics. “It was like we were talking to ourselves,” the rightwing radical said of their political affinity.

It is unclear how much support Rumbo Libertad enjoys in Venezuela. Henrique Capriles, one of the key leaders of its mainstream opposition, recently dismissed it as part of “a small extremist sect” that was intent on replacing Venezuela’s red dictatorship with one of another hue. Such groups were noisy on social media but did little to help feed starving Venezuelans, Capriles complained.

But Navarro does appear to have the ear of Brazil’s next president and his influential son, Eduardo, a 34-year-old politician who is positioning himself as Brazil’s answer to Jared Kushner – and recently travelled to the US to meet with Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz and Steve Bannon.

Last spring Eduardo Bolsonaro donned a black t-shirt stamped with Rumbo Libertad’s logo when he and Navarro flew to Brazil’s northern border to meet Venezuelan refugees during one of his father’s campaign events.

- theguardian.com

 

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