Canada to host Lima group Feb. 4 in effort to find solution to Venezuela crisis
'The Maduro regime relinquished any remaining legitimacy ..." says Freeland
Canada will host members of the Lima group of South and Central American countries next Monday in an effort to find a resolution to the turmoil in Venezuela, Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland said today.
The move comes days after Canada recognized Juan Guaido, the Venezuelan opposition leader, as interim president of the country and rejected Nicolas Maduro's government as autocratic and illegitimate.
Guaido, the democratically elected leader of the opposition in Venezuela's National Assembly, declared himself interim president last week.
"Since August 2017, Canada has been working closely as a member of the Lima group, which is comprised of over a dozen Latin American countries and the Caribbean, to address the Venezuelan crisis," Freeland said.
"The Maduro regime relinquished any remaining legitimacy when it seized power through fraudulent and undemocratic elections on May 20, 2018. We now call upon Nicolas Maduro to cede power to the National Assembly, the only remaining democratically elected institution in Venezuela, in line with that country's constitution."
The Lima group was formed in the summer of 2017 and includes Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Guyana and Saint Lucia.
Canada has hosted the group for meetings before, including a ministerial level meeting in October of 2017.
Freeland also said that Canada — along with Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Paraguay and Peru — referred the ongoing human rights abuses and squashing of dissent in Venezuela to the International Criminal Court prosecutor's office for investigation in September.
She also noted that the United Kingdom, France, Germany and Spain also stated over the weekend that they, too, recognize Guaido and would continue to do so unless free and democratic elections are held in the country by Saturday.
The move to recognize Guaido by these European powers followed similar recognition by Argentina, Brazil, Chile and Colombia last week.
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.
A major oil producer, Venezuela has been wracked by hyper-inflation, food shortages and intense crime since Maduro came to power in 2013. Maduro's government accuses the U.S. and others of launching an "economic war" against Venezuela, blaming it for most of the country's problems.
Maduro, who was first elected president in 2013 by a thin margin following the death of socialist leader Hugo Chavez, is deeply unpopular.
Maduro was inaugurated on Jan. 10 to another term in office following a widely boycotted election last year that many foreign governments described as a fraudulent. His government accuses Guaido of staging a coup and has threatened him with jail.