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

Former Maple Ridge mayor, MLA dies

Service next week for Norm Jacobsen

Ideas sought for Maple Ridge transit corridor

Workshop May 11, B-Line here in less than 12 months

Pitt railway neighbour irked by idling trains

City faces greater problems with locomotives in future, warns resident

Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows school trustees get pay hike

Salary increase based on remuneration policy adopted in 2014.

Job market to remain tight in coming years: report

Conference Board of Canada predicts region’s unemployment rate to remain below five per cent

VIDEO: Killer whales hunt for seals in Vancouver harbour

Bigg’s killer whales feed on marine mammals like seals, sea lions, dolphins and even other whales

VIDEO: B.C.’s waving granny gets incredible send-off from school kids

Tinney Davidson has been waving at students on their way to school for over 11 years, but is moving in a month

Struggling B.C. adoption agency elects new board that intends to keep it open

The previous board announced that Choices would close May 31

Woman, 60, charged in connection to thefts at YVR

RCMP believe the foreign national is part of a larger organized theft group

Vancouver man, 19, charged in human trafficking case involving teen girl

The 16-year-old girl was reported missing and later discovered in Vancouver

Worst 10 bus routes in Metro Vancouver for rider complaints

TransLink releases list, with Route 319 at the top

Mayors, First Nations chiefs, urge ‘immediate action’ on new Massey crossing

Joint letter asks province to move up timeline, consider only eight-lane tunnel options

Bus driver assault in Vancouver once again raises safety concerns

A 49-year-old Surrey man was released on a promise to appear in court. No charge has been laid

Most Read