RIO DE JANEIRO — Brazil’s foreign minister plunged immediately into the divisive question of Venezuela on Friday as he launched a meeting of senior officials preparing for a BRICS nation summit, urging his counterparts from Russia, China, India and South Africa to hear Venezuelans’ “cry for freedom.”“Brazil has heard that cry. I appeal to you all to listen to it too,” Foreign Minister Ernesto Araujo said at the opening session, reiterating his conservative government’s support for Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó.Few issues divide the informal trade group as deeply as how to deal with Venezuela, whose socialist government is strongly backed by Russia and China, which have extensive investments there. The neighbouring nation’s economic and political crisis has caused tens of thousands of Venezuelans to pour into northern Brazil as part of a vastly larger regional migration crisis.Araujo denounced “a regime sustained by force” that he said has led to extreme poverty, hunger and “the exodus of 4 million Venezuelans.” He agreed with Russia on one key point, however: an opposition to foreign intervention.“Our action (in Venezuela) doesn’t have anything to do with intervention,” Araujo told reporters later. “We agree that the solution must be constructed by Venezuelans.”The focus on Venezuela was a discordant start for the meeting of a group formed with the four nations were among the world’s most dynamic rising economic forces — and when Brazil was governed by a left-leaning government that was trying to reduce the influence of Washington.President Jair Bolsonaro, who took office in January, has compared himself to U.S. President Donald Trump, complained about Russia’s support of Maduro and at times has suggested allowing a U.S. military presence in Brazil. Before entering the Cabinet, Araujo had been deeply skeptical of China, suggesting on his blog that its extensive investments in Brazil were a threat to national sovereignty. He also wrote that climate change was a plot piloted by “cultural Marxism” to promote the growth of China.Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov responded to Araujo’s plea by saying the approach to Venezuela should be based on “international law and give support to Venezuelans without external interference, and always within the Constitution.”Friday’s meeting is supposed to prepare for a November summit of the five nations’ leaders, forging agreements on co-operation in trade and technology as well as fighting terrorism and international crime.Meanwhile, Araujo confirmed that the administration has officially nominated Eduardo Bolsonaro, the president’s son, to be Brazil’s ambassador to the United States. The proposal would have to be cleared by the U.S. government and approved by Brazil’s Senate.“I am certain that it will be granted by the American government and that Eduardo Bolsonaro will be a great ambassador,” Araujo said.Diane Jeantet, The Associated Press