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

Dress up 50s/60s rock style for Rock ‘N Rimbey

Decoration, dress-up contest runs all week in Rimbey

Rimbey area producers should keep cattle comfortable this summer

Options for cattle producers dealing with hot, windy conditions to pests

Video games don’t cause mass shootings

No link ever found between violence and video games

Rimbey musician to play at Vault for Rock ‘n Rimbey

Tyson Prior excited he will be doing what he loves best at Rock’n Rimbey

QUIZ: How much do you remember about Woodstock?

Weekend music festival in Bethel, New York, was held 50 years ago

Wetaskiwin RCMP arrest two in Camrose after report of suspicious persons

Fugitives try to flee on ATVS, one allegedly steals police car

Advocates ‘internationalize’ the fight to free Raif Badawi from Saudi prison

Raif Badawi was arrested on June 17, 2012, and was later sentenced to 1,000 lashes and 10 years in jail for his online criticism of Saudi clerics

Canada ‘disappointed’ terror suspect’s British citizenship revoked

Jack Letts, who was dubbed “Jihadi Jack” by the U.K. media, has been detained in a Kurdish prison for about two years

Chrystia Freeland condemns violence in Hong Kong, backs right to peaceful assembly

There have been months of protests in the semi-autonomous region

‘It’s just the freedom:’ Paralyzed Broncos player pursuing life on the water

The former Humboldt Broncos goaltender, who started in the net when he was nine, was paralyzed last year

Central Alberta Buccaneers punch ticket to AFL Final

28-20 win over Fort Mac sets up likely date against Calgary Wolf Pack

Canadians killed in Afghanistan honoured during emotional dedication ceremony

One-hundred-fifty-eight Canadian soldiers died during the mission

Discussion on grief and loss between Stephen Colbert, Anderson Cooper goes viral

The exchange includes emotional question from Cooper, and outlook on grief as a child

Most Read