Venezuela’s Opposition Leader Gets Backing in Canada

Jan 27, 2020
5:54 PM

Canada’s Minister of Foreign Affairs François-Philippe Champagne meets with interim President of Venezuela Juan Guaido in Ottawa, Ontario, Monday, January 27, 2020. (Justin Tang/The Canadian Press via AP)

OTTAWA, Ontario (AP) — Canada wants to reinvigorate the effort to bring democracy to Venezuela, Canada’s top diplomat said Monday as he met with Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó as part of an international push to reignite international support for the flagging movement.

The man recognized by the U.S. and nearly 60 other nations as Venezuela’s rightful leader started the day with a meeting with Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister François-Philippe Champagne. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was to meet with Guaidó later Monday.

“This is not one man’s fight. This is a fight of all Venezuelans, and we are receiving clear support,” Guaidó said in Spanish, standing next to Champagne as he thanked Canada for its continuing support.

Guaidó left Venezuela a little over a week ago for only the second time since being elected the head of congress to embark on a support-building tour of Europe and Canada. It started with a meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Bogota, the Colombian capital. Leaving Venezuela was a risky move for the opposition leader, who is under a travel ban imposed by the pro-Maduro Supreme Court.

A year ago Guaidó stood before packed crowds of cheering Venezuelans and proclaimed that his status as head of congress made him the nation’s legitimate president because President Nicolás Maduro’s reelection was invalid. But his effort to drive Maduro from power has thus far proven unsuccessful.

“What I can tell Venezuelans is we’re going to be home soon; we’re going to mobilize, we’re going to demand the support that we need,” Guaidó said. “It will depend on how focused the pressure is for an election. That’s what happened when we pushed our way into the National Assembly.”

Champagne said “something must be done” to “reinvigorate” efforts to resolve the crisis. Canada, he said, wants a peaceful transition to democracy, led by the Venezuelan people with free and fair elections, as soon as possible, under international observation.

Guaidó described the pain of families separated from loved ones because of killings and imprisonment, growing poverty, declining health care and the widespread suffering of children. He said international support was crucial to give hope to Venezuelans.

The once-wealthy nation is gripped by crisis, which critics blame on years of failed socialist rule, while Maduro frequently blames right-wing forces backed by the United States set on overthrowing him to steal Venezuela’s vast oil reserves.

Canada has already imposed relatively tough sanctions on Maduro’s government, targeting 113 people under its so-called Magnitsky Law that allows it to sanction individual human rights abusers.

Last year in Ottawa, Canada hosted the Lima Group, which includes about a dozen like-minded Western Hemisphere countries, minus the United States.

The group’ called on Venezuela’s military to switch allegiance and support Guaidó.