Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland talks to media as she makes here way through the foyer of the House of Commons in the West Block of Parliament Hill as she arrives for question period in Ottawa on Monday, Jan. 28, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Canada to host Venezuela summit to support anti-Maduro forces

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland confirmed its next session will be in Ottawa.

Canada will host a meeting of Western Hemisphere countries next Monday to address the political and economic crisis in Venezuela.

The Lima Group, a coalition of more than a dozen countries in the Americas, minus the United States, was formed in August 2017 to address Venezuela’s growing backslide into authoritarianism. Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland confirmed its next session will be in Ottawa.

Canada needs to play a leading role in the Lima Group because the crisis in Venezuela is unfolding in Canada’s global backyard, she said.

“This is our neighbourhood,” said Freeland said Monday. ”For Canadians, we have a very direct interest in what happens in our hemisphere. That is why we have been so active and will continue to be so active.”

READ MORE: Quiet Canadian diplomacy helped Guaido’s anti-Maduro movement in Venezuela

The group has recognized opposition leader Juan Guaido as Venezuela’s interim president, saying President Nicolas Maduro’s continuing dictatorial rule is creating an economic and humanitarian crisis that has swelled beyond his country’s borders. Maduro was populist leader Hugo Chavez’s vice-president and came to power with Chavez’s death in 2013.

Freeland praised the role of Canadian diplomats in Caracas, who helped get the country’s opposition parties to coalesce behind the 35-year-old Guaido.

The Canadian Press interviewed senior Canadian government officials who have described Canada’s role in aiding democratic forces to help rescue the once oil-rich country from the economic and political spiral that has forced three million Venezuelans from their homes.

Freeland said Monday’s talks will focus in part on the refugee crisis has that has forced a flood of displaced people into neighbouring Colombia and Brazil.

“Some of the stories of people coming across the border, unaccompanied children for example, in terrible conditions are really heart-wrenching,” said Freeland. ”We’ve seen with Syria the way in which a refugee crisis can have much broader destabilizing impacts.”

The Lima Group has also called for Maduro’s ouster, saying Guaido is the only “legitimately elected” Venezuelan leader after he won control of its National Assembly.

On Jan. 10, Maduro was sworn in as president with support of countries such as Cuba, Russia and China. The Lima Group denounced Maduro as illegitimate and Freeland said, “the Maduro regime is now fully entrenched as a dictatorship.”

READ MORE: Dueling Venezuela leaders dig in defending presidency claims

Freeland has branded the rise of authoritarian leaders as a major foreign-policy challenge and she suggested Monday that Canada needs to work against it in the Americas.

“Our hemisphere has been going in the right direction and it is really important to stand up or to speak up for democracy and human rights.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has spoken to Colombian President Ivan Duque and Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez to affirm their support of Guaido in recent days. On Sunday, Trudeau and Sanchez also agreed on “the imperative for new, free and fair elections in Venezuela,” according to Trudeau’s office.

Mike Blanchfield, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Complex-care facility adds 60 long-term care beds

Mount Ida Mews hosts grand opening of second phase in Salmon Arm

UPDATE: One dead after crash on Highway 97A near Armstrong

Police have confirmed that one person is dead following an accident on Highway 97A Friday

Multi-vehicle collision slows traffic on Highway 1

Trans-Canada Highway reduced to single lane between Salmon Arm and Sicamous

Music program discord attributed to lack of oversight

North-Okanagan-Shuswap schools struggle to retain musical excellence amidst many challenges

National Energy Board approves Trans Mountain pipeline again

Next step includes cabinet voting on the controversial expansion

No treatment for highly infectious measles, says doctor

10 cases of measles confirmed in Vancouver as of Friday

Two more measles cases confirmed in Vancouver

It brings the number of total cases within the city connected to the outbreak to ten

Crews continuing to clear rock north of Summerland

Site has had no movement for the past eight days

No gas in Okanagan town as lone station closed for renovations

Falkland’s Petro Canada will remain closed for renovations until March 1

Developer makes an effort to help Okanagan students left homeless after flood

U-Two developer is making an effort to help university students who were left in a lurch

Alleged Okanagan sex offender arrested in P.E.I.

Offences occurred while Ivan Glen Winchester was living in Summerland between 2006 and 2010

GoFundMe reaches halfway mark after death of beloved Central Okanagan yogi

A fundraiser was started for Tessa Hutton’s family

Most Read