Lula reopens Brazil's doors to Maduro after Bolsonaro's ban

On the presidents' agenda for negotiations is Venezuela's large sum of debt to the Brazilian National Development Bank.

Nicolás Maduro arrived Monday in Brazil as part of his first official visit to the country since 2015. The trip comes just days before the start of the regional summit organized by Lula da Silva and puts an end to the ban decreed by former President Jair Bolsonaro against the Chavista regime.

In 2019, Bolsonaro imposed a ban on Nicolás Maduro from entering Brazil, arguing the atrocities committed by his government to control the opposition in Venezuela. Since his return to power, leftist Lula da Silva has worked to put an end to this ban.

As can be seen in the videos published by both presidents, Nicolás Maduro flew to Brazil in a Conviasa plane, the airline subject to sanctions by the United States since 2020. With this visit, Maduro's regime gains some international support and credibility. Before the Brazilian president, it was the Colombian Gustavo Petro who offered him the same opportunity in April. Petro himself is also scheduled to visit Brazil in the coming weeks.

Of particular relevance on Lula da Silva and Maduro's agenda is Venezuela's debt with Brazil. The Brazilian National Development Bank (BNDES) injected a large amount of capital into Venezuela in the form of various types of loans and incentives to Venezuelan companies. According to data from the newspaper Brasil de Fato, Venezuela owes Brazil $682 million in overdue payments for contracts established between 2001 and 2015.

Venezuela's debt with Brazil represents 65% of all loans made by the Brazilian Export Guarantee Fund. Although, in Brazil, the debt was a cause for criticism against President Lula da Silva, and the president assured in February 2023 that Venezuela will pay. "I am sure that these countries [Cuba and Venezuela] will pay because they are all friends of Brazil and will certainly pay the debt they have with the BNDES," said the Brazilian president in statements reported by EFE during the new head of the BNDES's inauguration ceremony.

The Brazilian institution also made loans to Cuba, though of a much lower sum. The complicity between Venezuela and the Brazilian Workers' Party (PT) is key to the debt issue. In 2018, when the PT was governing and was the party with the most seats in the Chamber of Deputies, the Brazilian legislature approved covering $281.6 million in defaulted payments for Venezuela. With Dilma Rousseff (PT) at its head, the Brazilian government also agreed to act as guarantor in favor of Venezuela.

Chart showing Chinese loans to Venezuela by year.

Venezuela subsists economically thanks to loans from other countries, such as China. As of 2016, Venezuela received 44% of total Chinese financing to the South American continent, with $67 billion received since 2005. However, Venezuela has not received loans from Chinese entities since that year. According to The Dialogue, the reason is that Venezuela's risk analysis is too high for China. Venezuela set a precedent by negotiating loan repayment terms with China. After establishing moratoriums for Venezuela, Chinese entities decided to stop lending to the country altogether.