Brazilian FM forecasts peaceful change in Venezuela

Rome (AFP) –


Brazilian Foreign Minister Ernesto Araujo forecast Wednesday a peaceful change of regime in neighbouring Venezuela while ruling out a military option, in an interview with AFP in Rome.

A supporter of Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido, Araujo said he hoped efforts to get Venezuelan military units to back Guaido would bear fruit.

"There is a movement, a dynamic. It's perhaps longer than we would like but it is solid," Araujo, speaking in French, said at the beginning of a European tour.

A week ago, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro said Guaido had not failed in his bid to overthrow the leftist regime of Nicolas Maduro, saying a "crack" has been opened that could bring down the government.

Araujo began his European visit in Rome with a message of reassurance for leaders wary of Bolsonaro's diplomatic and environmental intentions.

He told AFP that the world sometimes had a "very superficial vision" of the far-right Brazilian leader, who he stressed was backed by a majority in the giant Latin American country.

Araujo said that dire forecasts of a spike in violence following Bolsonaro's victory had proved wrong, and that the murder rate had fallen by 25 percent since the president took office on January 1.

Recent opinion polls show a sharp drop in the president's approval ratings since the election, although just over half of those polled still back him.

- 'Respectful' of Brazil's environment -

The foreign minister also sought to present Brazil as a country that respected its unique environment, that was fighting against deforestation and promoting "a modern agriculture that does not occupy tropical forest zones.

"There are studies that show clearly, contrary to what is sometimes said, that the occupation of land by agriculture is very respectful of the environment," he insisted.

According to the non-governmental organisation Imazon, deforestation that had fallen sharply in the Amazon basin from 2004 to 2012, rose by 54 percent in January compared with the same month a year earlier.

The foreign minister said Brazil had no intention of reneging on its commitment to the Paris climate agreement even though the government felt it contained protectionist measures with respect to the country's agricultural sector.

In addition to Italy, Araujo is to visit Poland and Hungary, all countries with governments that share rightwing political ideologies with the current regime in Brazil.

In Rome he met with Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, head of the far-right League that is the dominant partner in a ruling coalition with the anti-establishment Five Star Movement (M5S).