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

Small Glories grace former Vernon roost

Band grows from small beginnings to big glory

Meet Vernon Special Olympics hometown heroes

Eight athletes from Vernon will participate in the games

Vernon rolls out four days of films

2019 Spring Film Festival runs Feb. 25-28

Home loss ends Vernon Vipers’ long weekend win streak

The Vernon Vipers ended the three games in three nights weekend with two wins, one loss

Vagina Monologues help Vernon women and children escape violence

V-Day 2019 fundraiser Feb. 28 benefits Transition House

A Mother’s Wish: Ryan Shtuka’s mother wants her son to be ‘forever known’

‍‍‍‍‍“Let me tell you a story …. it all began with a boy named Ryan”

B.C. father and sons launch new trunk-sharing system, ‘Trunkit’

Smiths say peer-to-peer shipping service offers an affordable, green alternative

Lost a ring? This B.C. man will find it for you

Chris Turner founded The Ring Finders, an international directory of metal detector hobbyists

Salmon Arm’s Laura Hall on bronze-winning skating squad

Hall’s team placed third in long track team pursuit at the Canada Winter Games

Poverty coalition has high hopes for B.C. poverty reduction strategy

Funding allocation expected to be released with 2019 budget

‘How did we get here?’: B.C. mom of transplant recipient worries about measles outbreaks

Addison, 7, cannot get a live vaccine because she has a heart transplant

Review: Joie de Vivre a celebration of homegrown talent

The Okanagan Symphony Orchestra concert featured Ernst Schneider

Bashful Balladeers bring voices to Vernon

Despite hiding behind masks, talent shines with this group

Most Read