RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - Brazil’s efforts to build better ties with the United States need not worry China, the South American country’s top trade partner, because it had never had a problem with China, the Brazilian foreign minister said on Friday.
At issue in the past has been how previous Brazilian administrations handled relations with China, Ernesto Araujo said.
Speaking with reporters after a meeting with senior officials from China, Russia, India and South Africa during a BRICS meeting in Rio de Janeiro, he added that his country’s efforts to improve relations with the United States did not have to endanger links with China, the world’s No. 2 economy.
“We never had an any issue with China. We had an issue with how Brazil itself was organizing, or not organizing, its relationship with China,” he said.
Before becoming foreign minister, Araujo made a name for himself by writing a blog post in which he said climate change was a Marxist plot invented to stimulate the Chinese economy and harm the West. Since taking office, however, he and other members of the government of President Jair Bolsonaro, another longstanding China critic, have taken a more pragmatic attitude toward Beijing.
Earlier on Friday, in a statement to mark the start of the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) meeting, Araujo told his counterparts to “hear the cries” of the people of Venezuela, which is experiencing a crippling political and economic crisis that touches neighboring Brazil.
“The entire international community needs to hear this scream, understand it and act,” said Araujo. “Brazil has heard this scream and I appeal to all of you to hear it too.”
Views within the BRICS group differ on how to handle the Venezuela crisis.
Russia and China are staunch allies of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro while most Western powers have recognized opposition leader Juan Guaido as the country’s legitimate leader, arguing that Maduro’s 2018 re-election was fraudulent.
Speaking later with reporters, Araujo recognized those differences, saying that he “had tried to put across Brazil’s perspective about Venezuela.”
For his part, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov defended Venezuela’s right to resolve its problems without foreign intervention or use of force.
Separately, Araujo said that Brazil had formally sent off to the United States its request for President Jair Bolsonaro’s son, lawmaker Eduardo Bolsonaro, to become Brazil’s ambassador in Washington.
“In accordance with diplomatic practice, we await the American response,” said Araujo. “But I am very sure that it will be granted by the U.S. government, and Eduardo Bolsonaro will be a great ambassador.”
Reporting by Gabriel Stargardter; Editing by Steve Orlofsky