Canada expands Venezuela sanctions, adds 43 people close to Maduro

Canada announced new sanctions today against 43 individuals connected to the government of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro as Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland met with counterparts from the Lima Group of nations in Santiago, Chile.​​​​​​

Freeland in Santiago, Chile, at meeting of group that backs opposition leader Guaido

National Assembly president and self-proclaimed interim president of Venezuela, Juan Guaido, waves his national flag during a rally on the shores of Maracaibo Lake in Cabimas, Venezuela on Sunday. (Fernando Llano/Associated Press)

Canada announced new sanctions today against 43 individuals connected to the government of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro as Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland met with counterparts from the Lima Group of nations in Santiago, Chile.​​​​​​

The Lima Group is an association of 15 American nations that accuse Nicolas Maduro of usurping Venezuela's democracy through fraudulent presidential and assembly elections in 2017-18.

A Canadian official, speaking on background, told CBC News that one of the purposes of the sanctions is to punish Venezuelan judges who rubber-stamped Maduro's moves to sideline the country's legitimately-elected National Assembly — dominated by opposition parties — and replace it with a Constituent Assembly entirely made up of government supporters.

A statement released by Global Affairs Canada said the sanctions hit high-ranking officials of the Maduro regime, regional governors, and people directly implicated in activities undermining democratic institutions.

Canada already had sanctioned 70 other Venezuelan officials. Many of the 43 newly-sanctioned individuals are already being sanctioned by the U.S. government and, in some cases, have been on the U.S. sanctions list since the Obama administration.

A Venezuelan Bolivarian National Guard officer throws a teargas grenade towards demonstrators during clashes in Urena, Venezuela, near the border with Colombia, Saturday, Feb. 23, 2019. Venezuela's National Guard fired tear gas on residents clearing a barricaded border bridge between Venezuela and Colombia on Saturday, heightening tensions over blocked humanitarian aid. (Fernando Llano/Associated Press)

The sanctions were timed to go public while Freeland attends the Lima Group meeting in Santiago.​​​​​​ The Lima Group supports Venezuela's opposition leader, Juan Guaido, as interim president until a new round of elections can be held.

The sanctions send a signal that Canada has not forgotten the Maduro government's anti-democratic actions, even as the regime itself has surprised many by hanging on to power in the face of international isolation and domestic chaos, marked by mass street protests, power cuts, and looting.

The latest meeting of the Lima group is being held after more than three million Venezuelans have fled hyperinflation, shortages of food and medicine and a worsening political crisis.

"The Maduro dictatorship must be held accountable for this crisis and depriving Venezuelans of their most basic rights and needs," Freeland said in a statement. "Canada is committed to supporting the peaceful restoration of constitutional democracy in Venezuela."

Although most Western nations, including the United States, have recognized Guaido as the interim head of state, Russia, China and Cuba have stood by Maduro.

The new list of people on the sanctions list includes:

  • Manuel Gregorio Bernal Martínez.
  • Iván Rafael Hernández Dala.
  • Manuel Ricardo Cristopher Figuera.
  • Hildemaro José Rodríguez Múcura.
  • Rafael Enrique Bastardo Mendoza.
  • José Miguel Domínguez Ramírez.
  • Cristian Abelardo Morales Zambrano.
  • Franklin García Duque.
  • Richard Jesús López Vargas.
  • José Miguel Montoya Rodríguez.
  • Giuseppe Alessandro Martín Alessandrello Cimadevilla.
  • José Adelino Ornelas Ferreira.
  • Carlos Augusto Leal Tellería.
  • Jorge Alberto Arreaza Montserrat.
  • Katherine Nayarith Harrington Padrón.
  • Reinaldo Enrique Muñoz Pedroza.
  • Alfredo Ruiz Angulo.
  • Larry Devoe Márquez.
  • Nelson Reinaldo Lepaje Salazar.
  • Carlos Erik Malpica Flores.
  • Manuel Ángel Fernández Meléndez.
  • Franco Silva Avila.
  • Jorge Elieser Márquez Monsalve.
  • José Rivas.
  • Luis Eduardo Ortega Morales.
  • Simón Alejandro Zerpa Delgado.
  • Manuel Salvador Quevedo Fernández.
  • Víctor Hugo Cano Pacheco.
  • Adrián Antonio Perdomo Mata.
  • Justo José Noguera Pietri.
  • Gladys Requena.
  • Eduardo Piñate.
  • Earle Herrera.
  • María Alejandra Díaz.
  • Marco Antonio Medina.
  • Bárbara Gabriela César Siero.
  • Inocencio Figueroa.
  • María Carolina Ameliach Villarroel.
  • Eulalia Guerrero Rivero.
  • Omar José Prieto Fernández.
  • Ramón Alonso Carrizalez Rengifo.
  • Jorge Luis García Carneiro.
  • Rafael Alejandro Lacava Evangelista.
Major-General Manuel Bernal Martinez is officially named head of SEBIN, Venezuela's secret police agency, in 2014 by then-Interior Minister Miguel Rodriguez Torres. Last year, Rodriguez Torres fell out with the Maduro government and was arrested by SEBIN on political charges. He remains in detention. (CBC News)

The list is made up of 13 commanders of military, police and Socialist Party militia, five state governors, five federal cabinet ministers, five Supreme Court justices, three members of the Constituent Assembly (a body not recognized by Canada) and 12 other officials.

Sanctioned for repression

Among the most prominent military and police names on the list are: Maj.Gen. Bernal Martinez, former director of Venezuela's secret police agency SEBIN, and currently commander of Venezuela's Los Andres strategic defence area; Christopher Figuera, SEBIN's current director; Hernandez Dala, head of Nicolas Maduro's presidential guard; Bastardo Mendoza, commander of the Special Action Force (FAES) implicated in a number of extrajudicial killings; and Leal Tellería, commander of the Bolivarian militia, a poorly-trained force of civilian part-timers that was recently enrolled in the armed forces of Venezuela by a decree of Nicolas Maduro.

Venezuela's Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza (second from left) was one of five members of the Maduro cabinet sanctioned. Here, Arreaza presents a formal note of protest to Canada's charge d'affairs Lori Corriveau after Canada announced on January 9 that it would not recognize Nicolas Maduro's second term as legitimate.

Also sanctioned are lower-ranking police officials who took prominent roles in suppressing the attempt by Venezuela's opposition to bring humanitarian aid into the country on February 23. Cristian Abelardo Morales Zambrano is police commander for the state of Tachira, and was in charge of the forces that prevented an aid convoy from entering Venezuela from Colombia. General Jose Miguel Montoya Rodriguez commands the Bolivarian National Guard in Bolivar state. Troopers under his command opened fire on members of the Pemon indigenous community that were trying to bring humanitarian aid into Venezuela from Brazil.

The governors of Zulia, Carabobo, Bolivar, Apure and Vargas states are also sanctioned. All are members of the ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela. Gov. Noguera Pietri was sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury Department in 2015. The other governors were all sanctioned by the U.S. in February this year, two days after the humanitarian aid convoy, because of incidents of repression that occurred in the states they control.

Also sanctioned by Canada are the ministers of foreign affairs, finance, labour, petroleum and mining.

Chosen by fraud

The sanctions against members of the Constituent Assembly reflect the fact that Canada considers the body illegitimate, its members selected through a fraudulent voting process in order to supplant the National Assembly elected in 2015 — which Canada sees as the last legitimate election held in Venezuela.

While the National Assembly has a two-thirds majority for the opposition, all 545 seats in the Constituent Assembly are held by government supporters. Gladys Del Valle Requena, sanctioned today, is its vice-president. (Its president, Diosdado Cabello, has been sanctioned by Canada since September 2017).

The five Supreme Court justices sanctioned are all members of the Political and Administrative section of Venezuela's Supreme Court, a body that has rubber-stamped some of the Maduro government's most controversial decisions, and assisted in the judicial persecution of opposition members. One of the judges named, Eulalia Guerrero, issued a 2016 ruling authorizing the use of live fire during political disturbances.

Other names on the list include: Larry Devoe, head of Venezuela's human rights council, who has refused to allow investigators from the Interamerican Commission on Human Rights to enter the country; Katherine Nayarith Harrington, a prosecutor involved in a number of cases that led to the imprisonment or exile of opposition figures; and Carlos Erik Malpica Flores, a former treasurer and a nephew of first lady Cilia Flores, sanctioned by the US since July 2017.


Evan Dyer

Senior Reporter

Evan Dyer has been a journalist with CBC for 25 years, after an early career as a freelancer in Argentina. He works in the Parliamentary Bureau and can be reached at evan.dyer@cbc.ca.

With files from Thompson Reuters