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      Trudeau's Venezuela Policy Has Failed. It Is Time To Reset Relations.

      Three years ago on January 23, a little-known Venezuelan politician declared himself president during an outdoor rally in Caracas. Canada recognized Juan Guaidó that day.

      According to the Canadian Press, Canadian diplomats spent “months” coordinating the plan to proclaim the new head of the opposition-dominated National Assembly president. A Canadian diplomat told CP they helped Guaidó “facilitate conversations with people that were out of the country and inside the country” while the Globe and Mail reported that foreign affairs minister Chrystia Freeland “spoke with Juan Guaidó to congratulate him on unifying opposition forces in Venezuela, two weeks before he declared himself interim president.”

      As part of Ottawa’s effort to oust the Venezuelan government Canada has blocked their diplomats. Ottawa also adopted four rounds of sanctions against Venezuelan officials. These moves reinforced and legitimated US sanctions that have devastated Venezuela’s economy and contributed to tens of thousands of deaths.

      Alongside Peru, Canada launched the Lima Group in 2017. Canada hosted multiple meetings of this coalition opposed to Venezuela’s government and pressed others to join an alliance that violated the principles of nonintervention in countries’ internal affairs.

      But, the Lima Group has effectively collapsed. Alongside a number of other countries, Peru withdrew from the alliance in August. The new Peruvian government’s foreign minister said, “the Lima Group must be the most disastrous thing we have done in international politics in the history of Perú.”

      In another sign of the failing campaign to isolate Caracas, only 16 of 193 UN members voted recently against recognizing Nicolás Maduro’s government as the representative of Venezuela.

      As his international backing steadily declines, Guaido’s influence among the Venezuelan opposition has greatly diminished. In December the self-declared president’s “foreign minister” Julio Borges resigned and called for his parallel government to “disappear completely”. Additionally, nearly all of Venezuela’s opposition parties participated in November’s regional and municipal election.

      Canadian officials know their policy has failed. Last year, Michael Grant, the Assistant Deputy Minister for the Americas for Global Affairs, told the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development: “I would agree with you that, in the last few years, the international community has failed. We have put a lot of effort into this, and the situation in Venezuela has gotten worse. We are no closer to a political solution. I think we have to be honest about that.”

      Preferring to minimise their failure, Canadian officials rarely raise Venezuela anymore. But, their damaging policies remain in place. Venezuelans continue to suffer under North American sanctions and the lack of diplomatic relations undercuts cultural, sports, health and business ties.

      On the three-year anniversary of Guaidó's self-declaration as president, it’s time Ottawa re-evaluate its policy towards Venezuela. Canada should remove its sanctions, lay the Lima Group to rest and stop recognizing Juan Guaidó. It’s time to normalise relations with Venezuela.

      Canadian Foreign Policy Institute

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