Five years and one month ago, the foreign ministers of the European Union approved a package of sanctions that punished 11 senior officials of the Venezuelan regime, including Vice Presidents Delcy Rodríguez and Tareck El Aissami, for “violating human rights and undermining democracy and the rule of law.” The measures included a ban on travel to Community territory and the freezing of assets. Nicolás Maduro’s collaborators appealed the decision before the Court of Justice of the EU, which in 2021, after “proceeding to a detailed examination of the specific situation”, proceeded to dismiss it. This Monday, however, Delcy Rodríguez set foot in Brussels. She not on a stopover and without leaving the airport, as in the controversial trip with a meeting with José Luis Ábalos, but on an official trip, representing her country and as a guest at the headquarters of the European institutions.
Rodríguez came to the EU-Celac summit since Maduro was not invited. The image of his formal greeting to the president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, and the president of the European Council, Charles Michel, was powerful in itself. But next to him was also Pedro Sánchez, an informal host, who, after offering him his hand, decided to go one step further and give him two kisses.
The presence of the Chavista leader is more than controversial and serves to contextualize a strange summit, which has nothing to do with almost any other community event. She was able to be there in a diplomatic capacity, just as the Union looked the other way a few years ago when Robert Mugabe also wanted to travel as acting president of the African Union. The situation, more than contradictions, reflects the complexities of current geopolitics and the need to prevent Moscow and Beijing from deploying their networks, their ideology, their influence for the so-called Global South. It’s uncomfortable, it’s a problem, but there are few alternatives. Latin America was not and is not a priority for Europe, but times have changed and various capitals are crying out for totally different lines of action.
The initial day of this summit, the first in eight years, was not marked by anything in particular. Everyone in Brussels is talking this week about improving relations, about opportunities, about how much it unites us. The Brazilian Lula de Silva met with the president of the Commission and she promised to mobilize up to 45,000 million euros to finance projects in the region using the Global Gateway, the tool designed to combat the influence of the Chinese New Silk Road. But the day, in itself, did not have a dominant element, since the joint declaration is reserved for tomorrow.
These types of events are chaotic, with dozens or hundreds of parallel meetings, bilateral meetings, an alternative People’s Summit to highlight all the differences between blocks. And a gala summit that the Spanish president decided to skip to attend an electoral rally in Huesca. Sánchez assured that “all the leaders understand” the exceptional circumstances with the vote on Sunday, but after a long year highlighting the enormous importance of the appointment, his departure leaves the Spanish commitment somewhat tarnished.