Venezuela needs a new election says Trudeau

KEN POLE  –  Feb 4, 2019

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made it clear on Feb. 4 that he is unwilling to be drawn into the debate about foreign military intervention in Venezuela after President Donald Trump had indicated that “all options” were on the U.S. table. 

“What is absolutely clear is the international community is increasingly understanding that, according to the Venezuelan Constitution, there need to be new elections,” he told reporters outside the House of Commons when asked whether regime change is possible without military action. Trudeau also said it was clear that Juan Guaidó, the speaker in the country’s national assembly, was “the legitimate choice […] to manage that transition towards new elections.”

National Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan had already said it was “far too premature” even to be having discussions about “any type of military actions.” Appearing on CBC News Network’s Power & Politics, Sajjan said on Feb. 1 that the focus has to be on a diplomatic approach to replacing President Nicolas Maduro.

The minister had been in Washington earlier in the day for a meeting with acting Defense Secretary Pat Shanahan, but he said they did not talk about Venezuela. “We have opportunities on a number of occasions to discuss this and our position has been very clear on Venezuela and in the leadership role that Canada has been taking,” he said.

Canada is part of the so-called Lima Group, which met in Ottawa Feb. 4 and issued a communique after reviewing the situation in Venezuela. In it, they reiterated their “recognition and support for Juan Guaidó as the Interim President”, called for economic sanctions against the Maduro supporters, and cited the growing international support for “a government of democratic transition.”

Condemning the documented “persistent and serious violations of human right” by the Maduro regime and its security forces, the group called for immediate “free and fair elections […] with international observation.”

In addition to Canada, its members also include Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, Panama, Paraguay and Peru. European Union representatives also attended the Ottawa meeting. Guaidó and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo participated through separate video links.

The group also called on Venezuela’s armed forces to “demonstrate their loyalty to the Interim President in his constitutional functions as their Commander in Chief” and urged them “not to impede the entry and transit of humanitarian assistance.”

Canada also announced today that it will be providing “close to $53 million in humanitarian aid and development support” which it says will “focus on meeting the basic needs of those most affected, including migrants and refugees who have fled to neighbouring countries.”

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland said in a statement that “we all have an obligation to support the Venezuelan people in their struggle to rid themselves of the Maduro dictatorship.” 

– Ken Pole