(Bloomberg) -- The presidents of Uruguay and Chile criticized the support for Venezuela’s Nicolas Maduro given by his Brazilian counterpart, underscoring the challenges the South American leaders gathered in Brasilia are facing to build consensus and broaden cooperation in the region.

Uruguay’s Luis Lacalle Pou said on Tuesday he was “surprised” to hear Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva saying that a “narrative of anti-democracy and authoritarianism” has been created to hurt Maduro. The Brazilian president had made those remarks during a press conference on Monday, after hosting his Venezuelan counterpart for a bilateral meeting in the nation’s capital.

“If there are so many groups in the world that are trying to mediate so that there’s full democracy in Venezuela, that human rights are respected and there aren’t any political prisoners, the worst thing that we could do is bury our head in the sand,” Lacalle Pou said during the summit of South American leaders organized by Lula.

Chile’s Gabriel Boric echoed such comments, saying that Venezuela’s dire human rights situation isn’t merely a narrative. 

“It’s a reality. It’s serious, and I have had the opportunity to see it in the eyes and the pain of hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans who are in our country today and who demand a firm, clear position regarding human rights,” he said. 

Read more: Maduro Visits Brazil in a Blow to US Strategy of Isolation

The disagreement came to light as presidents from 11 countries and the head of Peru’s council of ministers convened in the first major meeting of South American leaders since 2014. The continent’s countries are hamstrung by domestic woes that have consumed their attention and eclipsed Lula’s desires to strengthen regional partnerships. Venezuela’s economic collapse in particular has prompted over 7 million to emigrate since 2015.

It isn’t the first time Lula and Lacalle Pou have clashed this year. In January, Lula sought to dissuade his Uruguayan counterpart from making a direct trade agreement with China, arguing that any such accord should be made between the South American trade union Mercosur and the Asian nation.

In his comments on Tuesday, Boric said that he was glad to have Venezuela back in multilateral meetings, where the region’s challenges can be resolved.

Boric also said sanctions imposed on countries like Venezuela hurt the population and not political leaders. “Therefore, we call on the United States and the European community to lift sanctions so that the Venezuelan people in this case can advance.”

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