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Juan Guaidó left out in the cold at Gatineau Lima Group meeting

Canadian PoliticsLatin America and the Caribbean

Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister François-Philippe Champagne speaks during the closing news conference at the Lima Group Ministerial meetings in Gatineau, February 20. Photo by Adrian Wyld.

For the first time since Juan Guaidó’s proclamation as interim president of Venezuela in January 2019, a meeting of the Lima Group has failed to even mention his name.

All previous meetings of this spurious organization served as commitments to bring Guaidó to power, and seemed to constitute virtual swearing-in ceremonies for his presidency. However, Guaidó remains only self-proclaimed as interim president. On February 20, despite the extremely cold weather, people demonstrated their opposition to Guaidó across Canada, with the largest contingent in front of the venue of the Lima Group meeting in Gatineau, Québec. From that meeting, a statement by the Canadian federal government in English, French and Spanish was widely distributed to the public and the media from coast to coast.

The message and slogans focused on the Trudeau government’s role as a US proxy in the Trump-led aggression against the legitimately elected president of Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro.

This constitutes an important lesson for progressive Canadians, who have refused to cede an inch to international pressure to convert anti-imperialist sentiment into consent for the Trudeau government’s actions in Venezuela.

Following the Lima Group’s omission of Guaidó during its recent meeting in Gatineau, Canadians who understand the situation must seize the opportunity to inform the public and demand that Canada withdraw from the multilateral body that is largely made up of reactionary leaders from across the hemisphere.

As highlighted in the message being sent by demonstrators, there is a desire to step up criticism of the Trudeau government for its domestic policies, such as those currently being implemented against Indigenous peoples in northwestern British Columbia. These actions are in flagrant contradiction to the Lima Group’s lofty principals of “democracy” and “human rights”, which the group uses to chastise the Venezuelan leadership.

Protesters gather outside the Canadian Museum of History in Gatineau, Quebec, directly across the Ottawa River from Parliament Hill in Ottawa, to protest the latest Lima Group meeting. Photo supplied by the author.

The Gatineau event was the first Lima Group meeting since the uprising in Chile, the violent coup in Bolivia, the start of ongoing demonstrations in Haiti, and massive protests in Colombia, all of which were met with thousands of arrests and plenty of bloodshed. The representatives of Chile, Haiti, Colombia and Bolivia, presided over by Trump’s main ally, Trudeau, were all present in Gatineau on February 20.

The focus of the meeting once again centered on promoting a “democratic transition” in Venezuela, while supporting further sanctions to put additional pressure on the Maduro regime. The declaration released by the Government of Canada during the meeting stated:

While the Venezuelan Constitution calls for parliamentary elections in 2020, democracy will be fully restored in Venezuela only through free, fair and credible presidential elections. This process must include an independent National Electoral Council, an un-biased Supreme Court, international support and observation, full press freedom and political participation of all Venezuelans.

This interventionist statement amounts to the presumption that the elections would be “fraudulent”. No self-respecting country in the world would allow its electoral process to be decided upon in a foreign nation. To illustrate once again the self-serving nature of this statement, on the very day the declaration was issued, the US-backed Bolivian government, installed by coup d’état, ruled against Evo Morales running for the Senate in that country’s upcoming election redo.

Trudeau was rewarded by the Lima Group members with a special, made-to-measure clause for him to “lead” on Venezuela, as part of his global pursuit for a seat on the UN Security Council. The clause in the statement reads:

In the coming days and weeks, representatives of the Lima Group will engage in an intensive period of outreach and consultation with all countries that have an interest in the restoration of democracy in Venezuela.

Thus, Trudeau is being mandated once again to do Trump’s dirty work, opportunistically using the other Lima Group members to directly reach out to Europe, the Caribbean and elsewhere, hoping to steal the international spotlight and gain votes at the UN for the Security Council seat.

Yet, Canada does not deserve a seat on the Security Council. No country that is a faithful ally of the US on all international issues, and that has been severely criticized by UN bodies for its ongoing genocidal treatment of its Indigenous peoples, should get a seat at that table. Other countries are taking note on who Canada is working for.

The international community must not forget the Trudeau government’s recent actions in Latin America, the current thrust of which is fixated on upending the Maduro government. Crucially, this has been supported by the recent coup d’état against Bolivia’s elected president, a move that Canada tacitly supported. Bolivia, under it’s new self-appointed president, has now joined the Lima Group. Bolivia under Evo Morales would have never been used for imperialist endeavours.

Arnold August is a Montreal-based journalist and the author of three books on Cuba, Latin America, and US foreign policy. His articles have appeared in English, Spanish and French in North America, Latin America, Europe and the Middle East, including occasional contributions to Canadian Dimension.


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