Brazilian Lula and Venezuelan Maduro.
During a South American leaders' summit hosted by Brazil's President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva as part of his efforts to unite the region's development and give it a stronger voice internationally, Lula urged South America's 12 countries to overcome ideological differences that have divided the region and join efforts toward more economic, cultural and social integration.
Lula, who is seeking to restore Brazil's leadership role in foreign affairs, rejected the criticism. The United States, Western countries and other critics consider Venezuela's government to be "authoritarian" and have imposed sanctions in an attempt to pressure the country to hold new elections.
"I have always defended the idea that every country is sovereign to decide their political regime and their internal affairs," he said at a news conference after the meeting.
Lula met with Maduro on Monday on the Venezuelan president's first visit to Brasil in eight years as the countries restored diplomatic relations amid the conference that brought together heads of states of various South American countries.
He told reporters that there was "very large" prejudice against the country and that the image of an "anti-democratic" Venezuela was a "narrative" promoted by the Western countries imposing harsh sanctions that exacerbate the country's humanitarian and economic crisis.
Uruguayan President Luis Lacalle Pou challenged Lula's comments directly.
"I was surprised when you say that what happened in Venezuela is a narrative. You already know what we think about Venezuela and about the Venezuelan government,"
Maduro addressed LaCalle Pou's statements saying history will be the ultimate judge and added the unity among South America nations should be based on a new multipolar world.
"There are presidents with diverse visions," he said after the meeting. "We have no problem sitting down to talk with any political force or president in a respectful, tolerant dialogue of unity in diversity, that is what we had here," Maduro said.
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