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Trudeau’s Venezuela policy has failed. It’s time to reset relations

Canadian officials rarely raise Venezuela anymore—but their damaging policies remain in place

Canadian PoliticsLatin America and the Caribbean

Opposition leader and self-proclaimed interim Venezuelan President Juan Guaidó speaks during a citizen assembly at a square in Caracas. Photo from Twitter.

Nearly three years ago, on January 23, 2019, a little-known Venezuelan politician declared himself president during an outdoor rally in Caracas. Canada recognized Juan Guaidó that day.

According to the Canadian Press, Canadian diplomats spent “months” coordinating the plan to proclaim the new head of the opposition-dominated National Assembly president. A Canadian diplomat told the outlet they helped Guaidó “facilitate conversations with people that were out of the country and inside the country” while the Globe and Mail reported that then Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland “spoke with Juan Guaidó to congratulate him on unifying opposition forces in Venezuela, two weeks before he declared himself interim president.”

As part of Ottawa’s effort to oust the Venezuelan government Canada has blocked their diplomats. Ottawa also adopted four rounds of sanctions against Venezuelan officials. These moves reinforced and legitimated US sanctions that have devastated Venezuela’s economy and contributed to tens of thousands of deaths.

Alongside Peru, Canada launched the Lima Group in 2017. Canada hosted multiple meetings of this coalition opposed to Venezuela’s government and pressed others to join an alliance that violated the principles of non-intervention in countries’ internal affairs.

Now, however, the Lima Group has effectively collapsed. Together with a number of other countries, Peru withdrew from the alliance in August. The new Peruvian government’s foreign minister said, “the Lima Group must be the most disastrous thing we have done in international politics in the history of Peru.”

In another sign of the failing campaign to isolate Caracas, only 16 of 193 United Nations members voted recently against recognizing Nicolás Maduro’s government as the representative of Venezuela.

As his international backing steadily declines, Guaido’s influence among the Venezuelan opposition has greatly diminished. In December the self-declared president’s “foreign minister” Julio Borges resigned and called for his parallel government to “disappear completely.” Additionally, nearly all of Venezuela’s opposition parties participated in November’s regional and municipal election.

Canadian officials know their policy has failed. Last year, Michael Grant, the Assistant Deputy Minister for the Americas at Global Affairs Canada, told the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development: “I would agree with you that, in the last few years, the international community has failed. We have put a lot of effort into this, and the situation in Venezuela has gotten worse. We are no closer to a political solution. I think we have to be honest about that.”

Preferring to minimize their failure, Canadian officials rarely raise Venezuela anymore—but their damaging policies remain in place. Venezuelans continue to suffer under North American sanctions and the lack of diplomatic relations undercuts cultural and business ties.

On the three-year anniversary of Guaidó’s self-declaration as president, it’s time for Ottawa to re-evaluate its policy towards Venezuela. Canada should remove its sanctions, lay the Lima Group to rest, and stop recognizing Guaidó.

Signatories:

David Suzuki, environmentalist and broadcaster

Roger Waters, musician (Pink Floyd)

Elizabeth May, Member of Parliament

Linda McQuaig, author

Libby Davies, former member of parliament

Svend Robinson, former member of parliament

Tariq Ali, author, political activist, writer, journalist, historian and filmmaker

John Pilger, Journalist and documentary filmmaker

Chris Hedges, journalist

Jim Manly, former member of parliament

Paul Manly, former member of parliament

Sid Ryan, former president Ontario Federation of Labour

Antonia Zerbisias, journalist

Cy Gonick, founder, Canadian Dimension

Vijay Prashad, Executive Director, Tricontinental Institute for Social Research

Judy Rebick, journalist

El Jones, professor, poet and author

Alain Deneault, professeur de philosophie, Université de Moncton

Chris Hannah, Propagandhi

Todd Kowalski, Propagandhi

Jord Samolesky, Propagandhi

Carmen Aguirre, author, actor and playwright

Rachad Antonius, professeur associé, Université du Québec à Montréal

Alison Bodine, author

Rana Bose, novelist

Dolores Chew, professor, Marianopolis College

Matias de Dovitiis, Canadian Latin America Alliance

Peter Eglin, Professor Emeritus, Wilfrid Laurier University

Joe Emersberger, author, activist and engineer

Yves Engler, author

Alan Freeman, Geopolitical Economy Research Group

Kay Gimbel, Victoria Central America Support Committee

Larry Hannant, historian

Pierre Jasmin, Secrétaire-général des Artistes pour la Paix

Tamara Lorincz, fellow, Canadian Foreign Policy Institute

Eva Manly, retired filmmaker, activist

Aaron Mate, journalist

Claude Morin, professeur d’histoire (retraité), Université de Montréal

Bianca Mugyenyi, Director, Canadian Foreign Policy Institute

Ben Norton, journalist

Isabel Orellana, professeure, Université du Québec à Montréal

Justin Podur, author and professor

John Price, Professor Emeritus, University of Victoria

Janine Solanki, Mobilization Against War and Occupation

Ken Stone, Hamilton Coalition to Stop the War

David Swanson, Executive Director, World Beyond War

Dr. Maria Paez Victor, sociologist, founder Louis Riel Bolivarian Circle

Pablo Vivanco, journalist, former director, teleSUR English

Theresa Wolfwood, Barnard-Boecker Centre Foundation

The Canadian Foreign Policy Institute is a non-partisan organization that informs people about Canada’s diplomatic, aid, intelligence and military policies abroad.

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