Despite a failed resolution calling for intervention in Venezuela at a meeting of the Organization of American States Monday, there’s still talk that Canada — a backer of the proposal that sought to condemn the Maduro government — may be poised to lead “mediation efforts” on the issue.
A Caracas-based source told The Globe and Mail this week that Canada may facilitate a negotiated settlement in Venezuela, after Peru’s Foreign Minister Ricardo Luna ruminated publicly about the idea, citing Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s “global power role.”
“There are a few potential advantages: Canada’s constructive influence and relationship with the U.S.; Trudeau’s and Canada’s good relationship with the left in the region, including Cuba; and Canada’s more neutral image generally in Latin America,” the source told the outlet.
For Ontario-based solidarity activist Raul Burbano, from Common Frontiers, Canada’s foreign policy interests in the region is more of a driving force behind its actions against Venezuela, such as its extractivist activities in Colombia, than its “discourse of democracy and human rights.”
Speaking of the G-7 country’s alignment with right-wing governments in Latin America — including its ironclad relations with all of Colombia, Mexico and Honduras — Burbano pressed that hypocrisy is “the most important component of Canada’s policy in Latin America.”
“There’s no talk of sanctions against these countries (from Canada), who themselves have many human rights violations,” said Burbano, who was an international observer in both the Honduras' 2013 presidential elections and Venezuela's 2010 parliamentary elections.
“(Canada) has a political agenda,” he added.
Ottawa's meddling in the South American country extends beyond its OAS-led proposals, the body long slammed by Venezuela as an organ of “imperialist interests.”
Last month, she released a statement saying “Canada is troubled” by Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s call for a National Constituent Assembly — a call, supported by various social movements, made to ease the high-running political tensions in the country and promote dialogue.
“We call on the government of Venezuela to release all political prisoners and set an electoral calendar without delay. Free and fair elections including all of Venezuela’s eligible voters are required to solve the country’s crisis,” Freeland had added.
The minister has participated in several OAS meetings in the last few months, including the ones currently taking place this week in Cancun, Mexico, and co-sponsored a proposal together with Peru, the United States, Mexico and Panama that if approved, would have called on Caracas to cancel the National Constitutient Assembly, among other measures.
In addition, a former Canadian justice minister, Irwin Cotler, is the lawyer who represents jailed Venezuelan opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez. Lopez, who sells himself as a political prisoner despite his long and sordid history in Venezuelan politics, was imprisoned in 2015 for 14 years for inciting violence in the deadly "guarimbas," violent street blockade protests that led to the deaths of 43 people. The attorney has appeared to back suggestions that Ottawa could have a role in regional approaches to Venezuela.
“I agree with the notion of the foreign minister and president of Peru that Trudeau at this point is seen as someone who can have a global role and can be an effective mediator,” Cotler told The Globe and Mail this week.
Lopez’s wife, Lilian Tintori, an outspoken opponent of Maduro and the Bolivarian Revolution who often meets with right-wing figures such as U.S. President Donald Trump and Argentina’s Mauricio Macri to rally her cause, also met with Trudeau last month.
Shortly after that meeting, Trudeau called on the Venezuelan government to “restore the constitutional order, including the release of all political prisoners and to set an electoral calendar without delay.”
He also stressed the need to “respect democracy and human rights,” including through Canada-sponsored OAS resolutions.
“Canada has been a member of the OAS since 1990. However, we in Canada are justified in asking Canadian governments why it has never called a special meeting of the OAS to consider U.S. violations of democracy and basic electoral principles?” wrote Arnold August, outlining “flagrant violations of democracy” in the United States.
For Burbano, it's also Venezuela’s numerous victories achieved through the Bolivarian revolution come as a threat for Canada.
“Canada wants to marginalize Venezuela, because … it does not follow the neoliberal model of free trade that Canada has been pushing,” he explained.
Citing Venezuela’s economic model as an alternative to market-based ones, including free education and health care, Burbano explained that Ottawa’s push for an economic agenda in the country is to prevent it from influencing Canadian citizens.
“Or else people in Canada will start asking for things like free education,” he said.
While the narrative in the North American country about Venezuela is one mired by alleged “tyranny,” Burbano explained that there is a resurgent movement in solidarity with progressive governments in Latin America.
“There’s a lot more momentum now, especially with (the rise) of right-wing governments such as Brazil’s Michel Temer,” he stated.