Global Affairs Canada warns Canadians to avoid 'all' travel to Venezuela
Violent crime, unstable political situation and shortages of food and medicine prompt advisory change
Global Affairs Canada has updated its official travel advisory for Venezuela to warn Canadians to avoid all travel to the South American country because of the ongoing humanitarian and political crisis there.
"Avoid all travel to Venezuela due to the significant level of violent crime, the unstable political and economic situations and the decline in basic living conditions, including shortages of medication, food staples, gasoline and water," Global Affairs says on its website.
Venezuela is a major oil producer that has been wracked by hyperinflation, food shortages and rising violent crime since Nicolas Maduro came to power in 2013 by a thin margin following the death of socialist leader Hugo Chavez.
Maduro was inaugurated Jan. 10 to another term in office following a widely boycotted election that many foreign governments — Canada included — described as a fraudulent.
Maduro's government accuses the U.S. and other countries of launching an "economic war" against Venezuela, blaming foreign sanctions against his country for most of its problems.
The change to the official travel advisory comes a day after the Liberal government hosted a gathering of foreign affairs ministers from the Lima Group of countries in an effort to find a resolution to the crisis gripping Venezuela.
At the close of that meeting in Ottawa on Monday, the Lima Group — Canada, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Panama, Paraguay, Peru and Saint Lucia — officially elevated Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido to the status of a "fully fledged" member of the group.
Guaido, the head of the National Assembly, swore himself in as interim president last month and was quickly recognized as such by Canada, the U.S. and other nations, including Argentina, Brazil, Chile and Colombia. After taking office in December, Mexico's new president Andrés Manuel López Obrador dropped the previous government's opposition to Maduro and said his administration will follow a policy of non-intervention.
Bolivia, Cuba, Turkey and Russia, among others, have not followed suit and continue to back Maduro as the rightful president, accusing the U.S. and others of interfering in Venezuela's internal affairs.
"It is very important to understand that Guaido derives his legitimacy from the National Assembly, which is the sole remaining democratically constituted body in Venezuela," Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland said at the closing press conference of the Lima Group meeting.