Politics

NDP insists it's united on Venezuela despite Singh's refusal to describe Guaido as interim president

The NDP is insisting party leader Jagmeet Singh is not contradicting his own MP on the party’s Venezuela policy — despite his apparent unwillingness to say who his party backs for the presidency of the troubled South American nation.

'The leader and foreign affairs critic are in lockstep,' says party spokesperson

The NDP insists Quebec MP Hélène Laverdière and NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh are on the same page when it comes to Venezuela. (CBC)

The NDP is insisting party leader Jagmeet Singh is not contradicting his own MP on the party's Venezuela policy — despite his apparent unwillingness to say who his party backs for the presidency of the troubled South American nation.

"The leader and foreign affairs critic are in lockstep and both believe Canada's focus should be that the future of Venezuela is for Venezuelans to decide through fair and free elections. This has always been our focus," party spokesman James Smith said in a statement.

That statement comes a day after Singh's foreign affairs critic, Quebec MP Hélène Laverdière, told the National Post that she was speaking for the party when she said she's "comfortable" with Canada recognizing a new interim president in Juan Guaido.

Last month, Guaido — the Venezuelan opposition leader and head of the National Assembly — swore himself in as interim president and was quickly recognized as such by Canada, the U.S. and other nations, including Argentina, Brazil, Chile and Colombia.

Shortly after Canada made its position known, Singh issued a short statement criticizing the move and saying Canada "should not simply follow the U.S.'s foreign policy."

That statement came after NDP MP Niki Ashton and byelection candidate Jessa McLean joined Svend Robinson, who is seeking the NDP nomination in Burnaby North-Seymour, in attacking Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his government for backing Guaido, a move they said amounted to advocating a military coup in Venezuela.

"It is shameful that the government of Canada, and Justin Trudeau, is lining up with Donald Trump, with the authoritarian thug [Jair] Bolsonaro, the president of Brazil, and is in fact recognizing a coup, an illegal coup," Robinson said at the time. "This is not respecting the people of Venezuela."

Speaking to the National Post, Laverdière said that Canada should have followed the European Union in giving President Nicolas Maduro a week to call new elections before recognizing Guaido.

"I think they should have aligned themselves with the Europeans to first put pressure on Maduro and then recognize Guaido when Maduro refused to hold presidential elections," she told the newspaper.

Constitutional support

Today in Burnaby, B.C., Singh was questioned by reporters at a campaign stop about who he recognizes as the president of Venezuela, Guaido or Maduro. He refused to join Laverdière in choosing Guaido.

"Whomever the people of Venezuela decide," he said. "I am taking the position that the people of Venezuela have the sovereign right to make that decision and it's our job to support the people of Venezuela in making that decision."

Guaido, Canada and countries making up the Lima Group of nations maintain that articles 233, 333 and 350 of Venezuela's constitution allow Guaido to assume interim power because Maduro's presidency is invalid.

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.

Article 333 of Venezuela's constitution states that the legal document does not become invalid if it ceases to be observed by an act of force or is repealed.

Article 350 says that the people of Venezuela should ignore any regime, legislation or authority that contravenes democratic values, principles and guarantees, or undermines human rights.

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