Canada leads Lima Group efforts with Colombia, Honduras and Guatemala to change the government of Venezuela

Published by Brent Patterson on

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Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau meets with Juan Guaido (who he recognizes as Venezuela’s interim president) in Ottawa, January 2020.

In August 2017, Canada joined with Colombia, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico and other countries in a multilateral body called the Lima Group.

Its founding statement promotes “all credible negotiating efforts [to achieve] a peaceful restoration of democracy [in Venezuela].”

More pointedly, the Lima Group does not recognize the government Nicolas Maduro – and seeks a new government in Venezuela.

Some of what has been proposed includes calling on the international community to: freeze the assets of Maduro’s “dictatorial regime”; recognize Juan Guaido as Venezuela’s legitimate leader; and take steps to “further isolate” Venezuela.

While Canada has imposed sanctions against individuals associated with the Maduro government, it has not applied economic sanctions against the country itself.

On January 23, 2019, the National Assembly declared Guaido the interim president of Venezuela.

Prior to that, the Canadian Press reported: “Emboldening Venezuela’s opposition has been a labour of months. …Canadian diplomats in Caracas, with their Latin American counterparts, worked to get the country’s opposition parties to coalesce behind the one person who emerged strong enough to stand against Maduro: 35-year-old Guaido.”

That article adds: “[Senior Canadian government officials] detailed Canada’s role in aiding democratic forces to rescue the once oil-rich country from the economic and political spiral that has forced three million Venezuelans from their homes.”

In February 2019, Prime Minister Trudeau told the Lima Group: “The time for democratic transition in Venezuela is now. The international community must immediately unite behind the interim President seeking to restore democracy in the country.”

Significantly in April 2019, Canada, Colombia, Guatemala, Honduras and other countries renewed “their call on the National Armed Forces of Venezuela to demonstrate their loyalty to the interim president, Juan Guaidó.”

By May 2019, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo stated that then US President Donald Trump “has been crystal clear and incredibly consistent: Military action is possible.”

While Canada has called on the Venezuelan army to “demonstrate their loyalty” to Guaido, it has publicly rejected the idea of a foreign military intervention.

Earlier this year, Canada, Colombia, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico and other Lima Group countries issued this statement that highlights: “We do not recognize the legitimacy or legality of the National Assembly installed on January 5, 2021. This illegitimate National Assembly is the product of the fraudulent elections of December 6, 2020, organized by the illegitimate regime of Nicolás Maduro.”

Most recently, the Lima Group lost Lima (Peru) when its new president withdrew that country from the group. Its new foreign minister says: “The Lima Group must be the most disastrous thing we have done in international politics in the history of Perú.”

The Canadian government’s interest in Venezuela merits a deeper discussion.

Canada has taken a strong position on Venezuela, but not on Colombia, Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico despite the significant issues that have been raised in those countries including corruption, democratic legitimacy, and significant human rights violations.

For instance, the meetings between Trudeau and Colombian president Ivan Duque on July 31, 2020May 11, 2020January 26, 2019, and September 25, 2018 all make reference to “the crisis in Venezuela”, but not the crisis in Colombia.

Professor Todd Gordon, author of Blood of Extraction: Canadian Imperialism in Latin America, says: “Canada is committed to the assertion of its powers in poorer countries in order to access their resources and labour.”

And MiningWatch Canada’s Latin American coordinator Kirsten Francescone has stated her organization’s “biggest concern” is that Canada’s moves in Venezuela “could potentially be an opening for Canadian mining companies.”

There is also, of course, the question of what right or legal basis Canada has to involve itself in a process with opposition parties in Venezuela to coalesce around Guaido and then actively seek a change in government in his favour especially when there is the appearance of economic benefit in doing so.

We continue to uphold the priority of any state needing to be accountable for its violations of human rights, as well the core United Nations principle of non-intervention in domestic affairs on matters within the jurisdiction of any state.

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