Justin Trudeau requires an intervention. A friend needs to tell him his obsession with Venezuela has led him down a path of misery, destruction and failure.
During a call on Monday with Chilean president Sebastián Piñera Trudeau again raised “the situation in Venezuela”, according to the official readout. Amidst massive demonstrations against Pinera in October, Trudeau also called to discuss Venezuela as he did in February 2018 and previously. Trudeau has also discussed Venezuela with the US, Colombian and other hemispheric presidents on multiple occasions.
Further afield, the PM has talked to the leaders of Japan, France, Spain, Austria, Ireland and Italy as well as the International Monetary Fund and European Union to convince them to join Canada’s campaign against Venezuela. A search of the prime minister’s press releases found 144 references to Venezuela. Conversely, there are four mentions of Bolivia, six of El Salvador and 31 of Venezuela’s much larger neighbour Brazil (14 of which are related to the 2016 Olympics/Paralympics in Brazil and others to meetings about Venezuela).
Trudeau’s Venezuela obsession is shared throughout the government. Global Affairs has put out hundreds of statements and tweets about Venezuela over the past three years. On Friday foreign minister François-Philippe Champagne released a statement and tweeted at Juan Guaidó a “call for the establishment of a transitional government in Venezuela.” In response, US journalist Ben Norton tweeted, “Canada’s woke Liberal government will condescendingly correct you for using the word ‘mankind’ while simultaneously trying to organize a right-wing coup to overthrow Venezuela’s democratically elected leftist government. Intersectional imperialism.”
A recently released Access to Information request highlights Canada’s role in Juan Guaidó’s declaring himself president. Fourteen days before the new head of the opposition-dominated National Assembly declared himself interim president on January 23, 2019, then foreign affairs minister Chrystia Freeland had a phone meeting with Guaidó. According to a partly redacted Access to Information request submitted by Canadian Foreign Policy Institute fellow Tamara Lorincz, the talking points for the conversation reveal that “with Canada’s support, Juan Guaidó was invited to deliver a presentation on this [self-declaration] at the Lima Group National Co-ordinators meeting on December 19”, 2018. The documents confirm the central role Canadian diplomats played in the US-backed plan to ratchet up tensions by claiming a relatively marginal National Assembly member was Venezuela’s president. At the time the Associated Press reported on Canada’s “key role” in building international diplomatic support for Guaidó while the Canadian Press noted that Canadian diplomats spent “months” coordinating the plan with the hard-line opposition.
In the fall of 2017, the government hired a pro-corporate, pro-Washington, former diplomat to coordinate their bid to oust Venezuela’s government. Canadian taxpayers have paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to Special Advisor on Venezuela Allan Culham, who was hostile to Hugo Chavez during his time as Canadian ambassador to Venezuela from 2002 to 2005.
But, the effort is a failure. As Arnold August recently pointed out, the pro-Guaidó international coalition is fraying with Guaidó’s National Assembly mandate expiring in a few months. Similarly, top Democrats are increasingly stressing the failure of US policy. Yet the Trudeau government doesn’t appear to have any plan to get out of this political downward spiral.
The campaign to overthrow Venezuela’s government is unprecedented in Canadian foreign policy history. But, so is the reaction. Venezuela’s public lobbying contributed to Canada’s defeat in its bid for a seat on the Security Council in June. On Thursday Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza will present on “Canadian Interference in Venezuela.” As this article points out, a sitting foreign minister for a country of 30 million talking directly to Canadians about Ottawa’s bid to overthrow his government is unprecedented in Canadian foreign policy history. Adding further intrigue to this exciting event, Pink Floyd founder, Roger Waters, will also be making an appearance.
While the hypocrisy of the Liberals is not unprecedented, the campaign against Venezuela is startling in its imperialist pretensions. Across the region the Trudeau government has largely ignored human rights violations committed by pro corporate/Washington governments. They’ve said little about hundreds of killings by regimes they backed in Haiti, Honduras, Bolivia, Chile and Colombia. Nor have they said much about flagrant violations of the constitutions or democratic norms in Haiti, Brazil and Honduras.
A few brave and principled Canadians need to take Trudeau aside and tell him his Venezuela obsession can only lead to more embarrassment and a permanent stain on this country’s reputation. Is doing Donald Trump’s dirty work worth it?
You can register for the Thursday webinarwithVenezuela’s Foreign Minister on “Canadian Interference in Venezuela” here.
When people say “America” everyone understands they mean one country, the USA. In a similar fashion it is time for all to understand that the Organization of American States (OAS) serves the interests of that country.
In a recent webinar on “Bolivia’s fight to restore democracy and Canada’s role” organized by the Canadian Latin America Alliance and Canadian Foreign Policy Institute, Matthew Green forthrightly criticized Canadian policy in that country and the hemisphere. The NDP MP said “Canada is complicit in the attack on indigeneity in Bolivia” and that “we are an imperialist, extractivist country.” He added that “we ought not be a part of a pseudo-imperialist group like the Lima Group” and criticized “Canada’s involvement in the OAS.”
Green’s statements build on a Jack Harris, the NDP foreign affairs critic, recent comment that the OAS was a “tool of the United States” with “undue influence on other members.” In a Hill Times story titled “NDP, Green MPs raise concern over Canada’s trust in OAS election monitoring in Bolivia” Paul Manly also criticized the OAS. The Green MP said the Organization is “not a credible, impartial player when it comes to leftist governments in South America. It was established to advance U.S. interests.”
The head of the OAS, Luis Almagro, is promoting extreme pro-Donald Trump positions. Recently, the OAS released a statement condemning protesters in Bolivia calling for elections. The coup government there has repeatedly postponed elections after the country’s first ever indigenous president was ousted partly as a result of a highly politicized OAS criticism of last October’s election. As the Onion recently satirized about Bolivia, the best way to ensure there are no “electoral irregularities” is to avoid elections altogether.
In Nicaragua the OAS has backed those seeking to oust Daniel Ortega’s social democratic government. They’ve repeatedly condemned the Sandinista government, prompting Nicaragua to refuse the OAS entry to the country. At the same time the OAS has largely ignored Nicaragua’s Central American neighbour even though Juan Orlando Hernandez defied the Honduras constitution by running for a second term as president and then brazenly stole the election.
In Haiti Almagro has aggressively championed corrupt, repressive and widely despised President Jovenel Moïse. The Secretary General of the OAS recently stated that Moïse’s mandate expired in February 2022, not February 2021 as most Haitians want and constitutional experts have argued. There is also some evidence to suggest the OAS is setting up to support Moïse’s effort to rig the elections. Recently, Haiti’s entire nine person electoral council resigned in response to Moïse’s pressure and the OAS continues to engage with a process that almost all political actors in Haiti reject.
Haiti’s new foreign minister Claude Joseph (representative of a prime minister appointed extra-constitutionally) recently visited Almagro to discuss Moïse’s mandate and elections. During the trip to Washington Joseph also met with the anti-Venezuela Lima Group ambassadors.
In response Haïti Liberté’s Kim Ives noted, “what could be more ironic and ludicrous than Haiti’s President Jovenel Moïse accusing Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro of being ‘illegitimate and dictatorial’ while demanding that he immediately ‘hold free, fair, and transparent general elections’? But that is exactly the position of the Lima Group, a collection of 15 Latin American states and Canada, which Haiti joined in January 2020.”
Almagro is an extremist on Venezuela. Three years ago the former Uruguayan Foreign Minister’s actions as head of the OAS prompted Almagro’s past boss, former Uruguayan president José Mujica, to condemn his bias against the Venezuelan government. In 2017 Almagro appointed long-time critic of Hugo Chavez and vicious anti-Palestinian Canadian politician, Irwin Cotler, and two others to a panel that launched the process of bringing Venezuela to the International Criminal Court. In a Real News Network interview Max Blumenthal described “the hyperbolic and propagandistic nature” of the press conference where the 400-page Canadian-backed report was released at the OAS in Washington. At the event Cotler ridiculously claimed Venezuela’s “government itself was responsible for the worst ever humanitarian crisis in the region.”
A year later Almagro mused about an invasion of Venezuela. He stated, “as for military intervention to overthrow the Nicolas Maduro regime, I think we should not rule out any option … diplomacy remains the first option but we can’t exclude any action.”
The OAS receives between 44% and 57% of its budget from Washington. While it’s now the organization’s second largestcontributor, Canada was not part of the OAS for its first 42 years. For decades Canada’s foreign-policy establishment wavered on joining the US-dominated organization. Not long after signing the free-trade agreement with the US, Brian Mulroney’s government joined the OAS in 1990.
The Matthew Green, Paul Manly and Jack Harris criticism of the OAS deserve a wide airing. All opponents of US bullying in the Americas should push for Canada to withdraw from the Organization of American States.
In an historic event on Thursday, August 20, Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza will discuss “Canadian Interference in Venezuela.” You can register for the webinarhere.
A protest this week calling for elections on September 6
If Indigenous lives really mattered to the Trudeau Liberals the Canadian government would not treat the most Indigenous country in the Americas the way it has.
Canada’s policy towards Bolivia is looking ever more undemocratic with each passing day. A general strike launched on Monday in the Andean nation is likely to further expose Canada’s backing for the alliance of economic elites, Christian extremists and security forces that deposed Bolivia’s first Indigenous president.
Hours after Evo Morales was ousted in November, foreign affairs minister Chrystia Freeland released a statement noting, “Canada stands with Bolivia and the democratic will of its people. We note the resignation of President Morales and will continue to support Bolivia during this transition and the new elections.” Freeland’s statement had no hint of criticism of Morales’ ouster while leaders from Argentina to Cuba, Venezuela to Mexico, condemned Morales’ forced resignation.
The anti-democratic nature of Canada’s position has grown starker with time. Recently, the coup government postponed elections for a third time. After dragging their feet on elections initially set for January the “interim” government has used the Covid-19 pandemic as an excuse to put off the poll until mid-October. But, the real reason for the latest postponement is that Morales’ long-time finance Minister, Luis Arce, is set to win the presidency in the first round. Coup President Jeanine Áñez, who previously promised not to run, is polling at around 13% and the main coup instigator, Luis Fernando Camacho, has even less popular support. To avoid an electoral drubbing, the coup government has sought to exclude Morales’ MAS party from the polls.
After ousting Morales the post-coup government immediately attacked Indigenous symbols and the army perpetrated a handful of massacres of anti-coup protesters. The unconstitutional “caretaker” regime shuttered multiple media outlets and returned USAID to the country, restarted diplomatic relations with Israel and joined the anti-Venezuela Lima Group. They also expelled 700 Cuban doctors, which has contributed to a surge of Covid-19 related deaths. In a recent five day period Bolivia’s police reported collecting 420 bodies from streets, houses, or vehicles in La Paz and Santa Cruz.
The pretext for Morales’ overthrow was a claim that the October 20, 2019 presidential election was flawed. Few disputed that Morales won the first round of the poll, but some claimed that he did not reach the 10% margin of victory, which was the threshold required to avoid a second-round runoff. The official result was 47.1 per cent for Morales and 36.5 per cent for US-backed candidate Carlos Mesa.
Global Affairs Canada bolstered right-wing anti-Morales protests by echoing the Trump administration’s criticism of Morales’ first round election victory. “It is not possible to accept the outcome under these circumstances,” said a Global Affairs statement on October 29. “We join our international partners in calling for a second round of elections to restore credibility in the electoral process.”
At the same time, Trudeau raised concerns about Bolivia’s election with other leaders. During a phone conversation with Chilean president Sebastián Piñera the Prime Minister criticized “election irregularities in Bolivia.” Ottawa also promoted and financed the OAS’ effort to discredit Bolivia’s presidential election.
After the October 20 presidential poll, the OAS immediately cried foul. The next day the organization released a statement expressing “its deep concern and surprise at the drastic and hard-to-explain change in the trend of the preliminary results [from the quick count] revealed after the closing of the polls.” Two days later they followed that statement up with a preliminary report that repeated their claim that “changes in the TREP [quick count] trend were hard to explain and did not match the other measurements available.”
But, the “hard-to-explain” changes cited by the OAS were entirely expected, as detailed in the Washington-based Centre for Economic Policy Research’s report “What Happened in Bolivia’s 2019 Vote Count? The Role of the OAS Electoral Observation Mission”. The CEPR analysis pointed out that Morales’ percentage lead over the second place candidate Carlos Mesa increased steadily as votes from rural, largely Indigenous, areas were tabulated. Additionally, the 47.1% of the vote Morales garnered aligned with pre-election polls and the vote score for his MAS party.
Subsequent investigations have corroborated CEPR’s initial analysis. A Washington Post commentary published by researchers at MIT’s Election Data and Science Lab was titled “Bolivia dismissed its October elections as fraudulent. Our research found no reason to suspect fraud.” More recently, the New York Times reported on a study by three other US academics suggesting the OAS audit was flawed. The story noted, “a close look at Bolivian election data suggests an initial analysis by the OAS that raised questions of vote-rigging — and helped force out a president — was flawed.”
But, the OAS’ statements gave oxygen to opposition protests. Their unsubstantiated criticism of the election was also widely cited internationally to justify Morales’ ouster. In response to OAS claims, protests in Bolivia and Washington and Ottawa saying they would not recognize Morales’s victory, the Bolivian president agreed to a “binding” OAS audit of the first round of the election. Unsurprisingly the OAS’ preliminary audit report alleged “irregularities and manipulation” and called for new elections overseen by a new electoral commission. Immediately after the OAS released its preliminary audit US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo went further, saying “all government officials and officials of any political organizations implicated in the flawed October 20 elections should step aside from the electoral process.” What started with an easy-to-explain discrepancy between the quick count and final results of the actual counting spiraled into the entire election is suspect and anyone associated with it must go.
At a Special Meeting of the OAS Permanent Council on Bolivia the representative of Antigua and Barbuda criticizedthe opaque way in which the OAS electoral mission to Bolivia released its statements and reports. She pointed out how the organization made a series of agreements with the Bolivian government that were effectively jettisoned. A number of Latin American countries echoed this view. For his part, Morales said the OAS “is in the service of the North American empire.”
US and Canadian representatives, on the other hand, applauded the OAS’ work in Bolivia. Canada’s representative to the OAS boasted that two Canadian technical advisers were part of the audit mission to Bolivia and that Canada financed the OAS effort that discredited Bolivia’s presidential election. Canada was the second largest contributor to the OAS, which received half its budget from Washington. In a statement titled “Canada welcomes results of OAS electoral audit mission to Bolivia” Freeland noted, “Canada commends the invaluable work of the OAS audit mission in ensuring a fair and transparent process, which we supported financially and through our expertise.”
A General strike this week in Bolivia demanding elections take place as planned on September 6 will put Canadian policy to the test.
On August 12 the Canadian Latin America Alliance and Canadian Foreign Policy Institute are co-organizing a talk on Bolivia’s fight to restore democracy and Canada’s role. The event features former Foreign Minister of Ecuador Guillaume Long, MP Matthew Green and Bolivian journalist Ollie Vargas. Register here.
Was Canada defeated in its bid for a seat on the United Nations Security Council because of Justin Trudeau’s effort to overthrow Venezuela’s government? Its intervention in the internal affairs of another sovereign country certainly didn’t help.
According to Royal Military College Professor Walter Dorn, “I spoke with an ambassador in NYC who told me that yesterday she voted for Canada. She had also cast a ballot in the 2010 election, which Canada also lost. She said that Canada’s position on the Middle East (Israel) had changed, which was a positive factor for election, but that Canada’s work in the Lima Group caused Venezuela to lobby hard against Canada. Unfortunately (from her perspective and mine), Venezuela and its allies still hold sway in the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM or G77).”
The only country’s diplomats — as far as I can tell — that publicly campaigned against Canada’s bid for a seat on the Security Council were Venezuelan. Prior to the vote Venezuela’s Vice-Minister of foreign relations for North America, Carlos Ron, tweeted out his opposition: “With its deafening silence, Canada has de facto supported terrorists and mercenaries who recently plotted against Venezuela, threatening regional peace and security. The UNSC is entrusted with upholding the United Nations Charter and maintaining International Peace and Security: Canada does not meet that criteria.”
The post was re-tweeted by Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza, who has 1.6 million followers, and numerous Venezuelan diplomats around the world, including the Venezuelan ambassador to the UN. Joaquín Pérez Ayestarán added, “Canada recognizes an unelected, self-proclaimed President in Venezuela, in complete disregard for the will of the voters. It also tries to isolate Venezuela diplomatically & supports sanctions that affect all Venezuelans. Is the Security Council the place for more non-diplomacy?”
After Canada lost its Security Council bid Ron noted, “not surprised with UN Security Council election results today. A subservient foreign policy may win you Trump’s favor, but the peoples of the world expect an independent voice that will stand for diplomacy, respect for self-determination, and peace.” He also tweeted an Ottawa Citizen article titled “Why Black and brown countries may have rejected Canada’s security council bid.”
For his part, UN ambassador Ayestarán tweeted, “losing two consecutive elections to the Security Council of United Nations within a 10-years period is a clear message that you are not a reliable partner and that the international community has no confidence in you for entrusting questions related to international peace and security.”
Over the past couple of years the Trudeau government has openly sought to overthrow Venezuela’s government. In a bid to elicit “regime change”, Ottawa has worked to isolate Caracas, imposed illegal sanctions, took that government to the International Criminal Court, financed an often-unsavoury opposition and decided a marginal opposition politician was the legitimate president.
Canada’s interference in Venezuelan affairs violates the UN and OAS charters. It is also wildly hypocritical. In its bid to force the Maduro government to follow Canada’s (erroneous) interpretation of the Venezuelan constitution Ottawa is allied in the Lima Group with President Juan Orlando Hernandez, who openly defied the Honduran Constitution. Another of Canada’s Lima Group allies is Colombian President Ivan Duque who has a substantially worse human rights record.
Reflecting the interventionist climate in this country, some suggested Canada’s position towards Venezuela would actually help it secure a seat on the Security Council. A few weeks before the vote the National Post’s John Ivison penned a column titled “Trudeau’s trail of broken promises haunt his UN Security Council campaign” that noted “but, Canada’s vigorous participation in the Lima Group, the multilateral group formed in response to the crisis in Venezuela, has won it good notices in Latin America.” (The Lima Group was set up to bypass the Organization of American States, mostly Caribbean countries, refusal to interfere in Venezuela’s affairs.) A Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East factsheet regarding “Canada’s 2020 bid for a UN Security Council seat” echoed Ivison’s view. It claimed, “Canada also presents a positive image to Latin American states, likely reinforced by its leadership of the Lima Group in 2019 and by its promise to allocate $53 million to the Venezuelan migration crisis.”
While it is likely that Lima Group countries voted for Canada, a larger group of non-interventionist minded countries outside of that coalition didn’t. Venezuelan officials’ ability to influence Non-Aligned Movement and other countries would have been overwhelmingly based on their sympathy for the principle of non-intervention in other countries’ affairs and respect for the UN charter.
The Liberals’ policy towards Venezuela has blown up in its face. Maduro is still in power. Canada’s preferred Venezuelan politician, Juan Guaidó, is weaker today than at any point since he declared himself president a year and a half ago. And now Venezuela has undermined the Liberals’ effort to sit on the Security Council.
Will Canada’s defeat at the UN spark a change in its disastrous Venezuela policy?
Published today in the Toronto Star, this article is supported by more than a hundred artists, activists and academics including David Suzuki, Roger Waters, Noam Chomsky, Ellen Gabriel, Pam Palmater, Monia Mazigh and Roméo Saganash. To view the full list of signatories or to add your name, visit: https://www.foreignpolicy.ca/petition
Despite its peaceful reputation, Canada is not acting as a benevolent player on the international stage.
Rather, Canada ranks among the twelve largest arms exporters and its weapons have fueled conflicts across the globe, including the devastating war in Yemen.
In a disappointing move, Canada refused to join 122 countries represented at the 2017 UN Conference to Negotiate a Legally Binding Instrument to Prohibit Nuclear Weapons, Leading Towards their Total Elimination.
Ottawa has also been an aggressive proponent of the nuclear-armed NATO alliance, and currently leads coalition missions in Latvia and Iraq.
Echoing Trump’s foreign policy, Canada has backed reactionary forces in the Americas. The Trudeau government has led efforts to unseat Venezuela’s UN-recognized government, while propping up repressive, corrupt and illegitimate governments in Haiti and Honduras. Canada also lent its support to the economic elites and Christian extremists who recently overthrew the democratically elected indigenous president of Bolivia.
In the Middle East, Canada has sided with Israel on almost every issue of importance. Since coming to power the Trudeau government has voted against more than fifty UN resolutions upholding Palestinian rights backed by the overwhelming majority of member states. The Canadian government has refused to abide by 2016 UN Security Council Resolution 2334, calling on member states to “distinguish, in their relevant dealings, between the territory of the State of Israel and the territories occupied in 1967.” On the contrary, Ottawa extends economic and trade assistance to Israel’s illegal settlement enterprise. Should it win a seat on the UNSC, Ottawa has stated that it will act as an “asset for Israel” on the Council.
Canadian mining companies are responsible for countless ecological and human rights abuses around the globe. Still, Ottawa defends the most controversial mining firms and refuses to restrict public support for companies responsible for abuses. The chair of the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights criticized the Trudeau government for refusing to rein in mining abuses while the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights and hazardous substances and wastes has decried the “double standard” applied to Canadian mining practices domestically versus internationally.
Falling short of its responsibilities as a global citizen, Canada continues to oppose the Basel Ban Amendment on the export of waste from rich to poor countries, which became binding in late 2019 after ratification by 97 countries. Ottawa also failed to ratify the United Nations’ Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. Ottawa has refused to ratify more than 50 International Labour Organization conventions. In November 2019, Canada once again refused to back a widely supported UN resolution on “Combating glorification of Nazism, neo-Nazism and other practices that contribute to fuelling contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.”
Violating the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the Trudeau government sent militarized police into unceded Wet’suwet’en Nation territory to push through a pipeline. The UN Human Rights Committee recently documented various ways Canada is failing to live up to its obligations towards indigenous people under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
Ignoring front-line victims, Ottawa refuses to keep Canada’s dirty oil in the ground. Canada is on pace to emit significantly more greenhouse gases than it agreed to in the 2015 Paris Agreement and previous climate accords. Already among the world’s highest per capita emitters, the Canadian government is subsidizing further growth of heavy emitting tar sands, at the expense of impoverished nations who’ve contributed little to the climate crisis but bear the brunt of its impacts.
The international community should not reward bad behaviour. Please vote against Canada’s bid for a seat on the UN Security Council.
David Suzuki, Award winning geneticist/broadcaster
Roger Waters, co-founder Pink Floyd
Noam Chomsky, linguist, author & social critic
Ellen Gabriel, artist and activist
Roméo Saganash, former MP Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou
Sid Ryan, former president of Ontario Federation of Labour and CUPE Ontario
Rawi Hage, novelist
Amir Khadir, former Quebec National Assembly member
Pam Palmater, Chair in Indigenous Governance, Ryerson
Judy Rebick, activist and author
Jord Samolesky, Propagandhi
Steve Ashton, long-serving member of the Manitoba legislature and cabinet minister
George Elliott Clarke, poet and professor
Mairead Maguire, Nobel Peace Prize co-winner (1976)
Trevor Herriot, author and activist
John Clark, activist
Charles Demers, comedian & author
Alain Deneault, essayist and philosophy professor
Martin Duckworth, laureate of the 2015 Albert-Tessier Prix du Quebec for cinema
Cy Gonick, former Manitoba NDP MLA and founding editor of Canadian Dimension
John Greyson, film-maker & professor
Syed Hussan, Migrant Workers Alliance
El Jones, activist, educator, journalist and poet
Gordon Laxer, author/founding Director Parkland Institute
Monia Mazigh, PhD, author and activist
Jim Manly, Member of Parliament 1980-88
Kanahus Manuel, activist
Tim McCaskell, educator & activist
Sheelah Mclean, co-founder Idle No More organizer
Serge Mongeau, author & editor
Mike Palecek, former National President of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers
Dimitri Roussopoulos, author, and long-time peace movement activist
A week ago a former Canadian soldier instigated a harebrained bid to kidnap or kill Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro. Launched from Colombia, the plot failed spectacularly with most of the men captured or killed.
Still, the leader of the invasion Jordan Goudreau, a veteran of the Canadian military and US special forces, has been remarkably forthright about the involvement of opposition figure Juan Guaidó. A leaked contract between Guaidó’s representative in Florida and Goudreau’s Silvercorp USA describes plans for a multi month occupation force, which after ousting Maduro would “convert to a National Asset Unit that will act under the direction of the [Guaidó] Administration to counter threats to government stability, terror threats and work closely” with other armed forces. Apparently, Goudreau was hoping for a big payday from Venezuela’s opposition. He also had his eyes on the $15 million bounty Washington put up in March for Maduro’s capture as well as tens of millions dollars for other members of the government.
As the plot has unraveled, Ottawa has refused to directly criticize the invasion launched from Colombia. The military has also refused to release information regarding Goudreau’s time in the Canadian forces. What’s more, since the plot began Canada’s foreign affairs minister has reached out to regional opponents of Maduro and reasserted Ottawa’s backing for Guaidó. The PM also discussed Venezuela with his Colombian counterpart.
The Trudeau government’s reaction to recent events suggest the global pandemic has not deterred them from brazenly seeking to overthrow Venezuela’s government. In a bid to elicit “regime change”, over the past couple years Ottawa has worked to isolate Caracas, imposed illegal sanctions, took that government to the International Criminal Court, financed an often-unsavoury opposition and decided a marginal opposition politician was the legitimate president.
The day after the first phase of the invasion was foiled foreign minister François-Philippe Champagne spoke to his Colombian, Peruvian and Brazilian counterparts concerning the “Venezuela crisis and the humanitarian needs of Venezuelans.” Four days later Champagne tweeted, “great call with Venezuela Interim President Juan Guaidó. Canada will always stand with the people of Venezuela in their desire to restore democracy and human rights in their country.”
On Monday Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke with Colombian President Iván Duque Márque. According to the official release, they “discussed the crisis in Venezuela and its humanitarian impact in the region which is heightened by the pandemic. They underscored the need for continued close collaboration and a concerted international effort to address this challenging situation.” Over the past 18 months Trudeau has repeatedly discussed Venezuela with a Colombian president who has offered up his country to armed opponents of Maduro.
The Trudeau government has been chummy with Duque more generally. After he won a close election marred by fraud allegations then Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland “congratulated” Duque and said, “Canada and Colombia share a commitment to democracy and human rights.” In August 2018 Trudeau tweeted, “today, Colombia’s new President, Ivan Duque, took office and joins Swedish PM, Norway PM, Emmanuel Macron, Pedro Sánchez, and others with a gender-equal cabinet. Iván, I look forward to working with you and your entire team.” A month later he added, “thanks to President Ivan Duque for a great first meeting at UNGA this afternoon, focused on growing our economies, addressing the crisis in Venezuela, and strengthening the friendship between Canada & Colombia.”
But, Duque is from the extreme right — “le champion du retour de la droite dure en Colombie”, according to a Le Soleil headline. The Colombian president has undercut the peace accord the previous (right, but not far right) government signed with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) to end Colombia’s 50-year civil war, which left some 220,000 dead. Duque’s policies have increased violence towards the ex-rebels and social activists. Seventy-seven former FARC members were killed in 2019. Even more human rights defenders were murdered. The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights found that at least 107 Colombian, mostly Indigenous, rights defenders were killed in 2019.
Through the first part of this year the pace at which social leaders and demobilized FARC members have been killed has increased. According to the UN observer mission in Colombia, 24 demobilized guerrillas have already been assassinated and a recent Patriotic March report on the “The other pandemic lived in Colombia” details 95 social leaders, human rights defenders and former guerrillas killed in the first four months of 2020.
Trudeau’s dalliance with Duque is difficult to align with his stated concern for human rights in Venezuela.
The same can be said for Ottawa’s failure to condemn the recent invasion attempt. The Trudeau government should be questioned on whether it was involved or had foreknowledge of the recent plot to invade Venezuela.
The effort Justin Trudeau’s government is putting into removing Venezuela’s President is remarkable. So is the utter hypocrisy of their campaign.
On Thursday Ottawa hosted the Lima Group, a coalition of countries supporting Washington’s bid to overthrow the Venezuelan government. A CBC headline noted, “Ottawa attempts to reboot campaign to remove Maduro from power in Venezuela.” For more than a year the Lima Group has openly pushed Venezuela’s military to overthrow the government. Thursday’s summit was the third held in Canada of a coalition instigated by Canada and Peru in mid 2017.
During the recent Munich Security Conference Trudeau discussed the South American country with a US Senate and House of Representatives delegation led by Republican Senator Lindsey Graham. The Prime Minister’s release noted, “the Congressional delegation thanked Canada for its leadership on the Lima Group and for supporting Interim President Juan Guaidó and the Venezuelan National Assembly in their efforts to achieve a peaceful democratic transition in Venezuela.”
Similarly, the Prime Minister discussed Venezuela at a meeting with Austria’s Chancellor on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference. According to Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, Canada and Austria “have many shared goals such as the empowerment of women and our support for free & fair elections in Venezuela.” According to this formulation, the empowerment of half the world’s population is of similar import to purported electoral discrepancies in Venezuela.
Foreign minister François-Philippe Champagne also discussed Venezuela with International Crisis Group President Robert Malley at the Munich Security Conference.
Last month Venezuelan politician Juan Guaidó was fêted in Ottawa. The self-declared president met the Prime Minister, deputy PM, international development minister and foreign minister. Trudeau called him “Interim President Guaidó” and Champagne sometimes referred to him simply as “President”.
Over the past couple of years, the government has put out hundreds of press releases, tweets and public statements critical of the Venezuelan government. They hired a Special Advisor on Venezuela to oversee the government’s coup efforts and the Professional Association of Foreign Service Officers gave Patricia Atkinson, Head of the Venezuela Task Force at Global Affairs, its Foreign Service Officers award in June 2019 for her role in overseeing a team of diplomats that organized Lima Group meetings, sanctions, etc. The government has implemented four rounds of sanctions against Venezuelan officials and it’s brought that country to the International Criminal Court, shuttered its Embassy in Caracas, funded opposition groups and decided a marginal opposition politician was the legitimate president.
A look at Canada’s Lima Group allies highlights the hypocrisy of their campaign against Venezuela. The constitutional legitimacy of Honduras’ President is far weaker than Maduro’s; Far more dissidents were assassinated in Colombia last year; The government of Chile is facing greater popular contestation; The electoral legitimacy of Haiti’s President is much weaker; Honduras’ president has clearer links to drug runners; Violence is worse in numerous countries in the Hemisphere.
It is true that Venezuela’s economic downturn – and concurrent outward migration – is substantially worse than other Lima Group members. But, the sanctions imposed by the US and Canada have contributed to Venezuela’s economic collapse as much as any action of the government.
Canada is engaged in an extraordinary effort to overthrow President Nicolas Maduro. But, it isn’t designed to advance democracy or human rights in Venezuela.
“Qui se ressemble, s’assemble.” The English saying is “birds of a feather flock together.” Translated from Spanish: “Tell me who your friends are, and I’ll tell you who you are.” The folk wisdom that who we hang out with tells a lot about us is reflected in numerous proverbs.
Whatever the language, who Ottawa chooses to hang out with tells us a lot about who Canada is in the Americas. The coalitions/institutions Ottawa is part of in the Americas speak of siding with the rich and powerful, of being part of the US Empire, of imperialism.
Recently Haiti joined the Lima Group of governments seeking to overthrow the Venezuelan government. Instigated by Canada and Peru in mid 2017, the Lima Group has successfully corralled regional support for the US-led campaign to oust President Nicolas Maduro. The coalition has gathered on a dozen occasions — including a third summit to be held in Canada on Thursday — to develop common positions and strategize on regime change.
President Jovenel Moïse’s decision to join the Lima Group highlights the influence of another Canadian-sponsored imperial group of friends. Unlike the Trudeau government’s anti-Venezuela positions, Moïse’s steps towards the Lima Group have been controversial in Haiti. When his government first voted against Venezuela at the Organization of American States (OAS) 13 months ago it stoked the fire of popular discontent that nearly toppled him. Until recently Haiti benefited from the discounted Venezuelan Petrocaribe oil program, which Moïse and his acolytes pilfered, spurring massive protests over the past 18 months. More generally, Haitians overwhelmingly view themselves as anti-imperialist and are proud their ancestors aided South American independence leaders Simon Bolivar and Miranda to defeat Spanish rule.
As popular discontent has grown, Moïse has become increasingly dependent on outside backing. The only reason Moïse is president is because of the so-called “Core Group” of “Friends of Haiti”, which comprises the ambassadors of the US, Canada, France, Brazil and Spain, as well as representatives of the EU and OAS. Core Group representatives meet regularly among themselves and with Haitian officials and periodically release collective statements on Haitian affairs.
Last month Radio Canada’s investigative programme Enquête pointed out that the Core Group was spawned at the “Ottawa initiative on Haiti”. Held at the Meech Lake Government Resort on January 31 and February 1, 2003, no Haitian officials were invited to the private gathering where US, French, OAS and Canadian officials discussed overthrowing Haiti’s elected government, putting the country under UN trusteeship and recreating the Haitian military.
Since the subsequent February 2004 coup against President Jean-Bertrand Aristide the Core Group has heavily influenced Haitian affairs. But, taking office two and a half years after the coup, René Préval succeeded in carving out some room to govern independently of the Core Group overseers — joining Venezuela’s Petrocaribe, for instance — but the January 2010 earthquake devastated the Haitian government. Taking advantage of its weakness, the Core Group pushed for elections to be held months after the earthquake and when their preferred candidate was in third place they dispatched an OAS “Expert Verification Mission” that determined (without offering proof) extreme right-wing candidate Michel Martelly deserved to be in the second round runoff. In effect, the Core Group employed the OAS to reassert their primacy over Haitian affairs.
Headquartered in the US capital, the OAS has long been a tool of Washington’s and capitalism’s dominance of the region. A few months ago OAS electoral observers played an important role in the overthrow of Evo Morales, prompting Bolivia’s first ever indigenous president to label the organization “in the service of the North American empire.”
The OAS receives between 44% and 57% of its budget from Washington. Responsible for as much as 12% of the organization’s budget, Canada is the second largest contributor to the 33-nation group.
Unfortunately, interventionist/imperialist alliances reinforce each other. A representative of the OAS is part of the Core Group while the Core Group has driven Haiti into joining the Lima Group. At the same time the Lima Group’s success in stoking regional opposition to Maduro has enabled the OAS to take ever more hostile positions towards Venezuela’s government. Like a teenager getting involved with the “wrong people” this circle of “friends” has been a very bad influence. It has encouraged bullying, bribery and other anti-social imperialist behaviour.
The Lima Group and Core Group are wholly illegitimate alliances. While the Organization of American States is slightly more complicated, progressives shouldn’t hesitate to proclaim, “Canada out of the Lima Group, Core Group and OAS.”
Protests are being organized for Thursday and Friday in a number of Canadian cities against the Lima Group.
What’s more likely to shape Canadian policy in the Hemisphere: human rights and democracy or bankers’ bottom-line?
Last week Venezuelan politician Juan Guaidó was fêted in Ottawa. The self-declared president met Canada’s Prime Minister, international development minister and foreign minister. Trudeau said, “I commend Interim President Guaidó for the courage and leadership he has shown in his efforts to return democracy to Venezuela, and I offer Canada’s continued support.”
Last month Guaidó was dethroned as leader of Venezuela’s national assembly. While the vote was contested, it represents a significant blow to Guaidó’s year-old claim to be Venezuela’s legitimate President. To shore up his position as opposition leader, Guaidó travelled to a number of international capitals, the World Economic Forum in Switzerland and was a guest of Donald Trump at the US president’s state of the union adress.
The Ottawa stop on Guaidó’s legitimacy seeking tour was the latest installment of the Trudeau government’s multipronged effort to overthrow Nicolás Maduro’s government. In a bid to elicit “regime change”, Ottawa has worked to isolate Caracas, imposed illegal sanctions, took that government to the International Criminal Court, financed an often-unsavoury opposition and decided a marginal opposition politician was the legitimate president.
On the same day Guaidó was fêted in Ottawa Scotiabank CEO Brian Porter penned “A call to action on Venezuela” in the National Post. The op-ed urged governments to “seize assets of corrupt regime officials” and to use the proceeds to give “support to the democratic movement in Venezuela.” Porter also applauded the Liberal’s “moral clarity by unambiguously condemning the Maduro regime’s abuses” and praised their “tremendous courage and leadership in the hemisphere and on the world stage.”
Scotiabank has long had frosty relations with the Bolivarian government. A few days after Hugo Chavez’s 2013 death the Globe & Mail Report on Business published a front-page story about Scotiabank’s interests in Venezuela, which were acquired just before his rise to power. It noted: “Bank of Nova Scotia [Scotiabank] is often lauded for its bold expansion into Latin America, having completed major acquisitions in Colombia and Peru. But when it comes to Venezuela, the bank has done little for the past 15 years – primarily because the government of President Hugo Chavez has been hostile to large-scale foreign investment.”
The perspective of the world’s 40th largest bank has shaped Ottawa’s position towards Caracas. At the other end of the continent, its interests have contributed to the Trudeau government’s support for embattled billionaire president Sebastián Piñera. A number of stories have highlighted Scotiabank’s concerns about recent protests against inequality in Chile. The Financial Post noted, “Scotiabank’s strategic foray into Latin America hits a snag with Chile unrest” and “Riots, state of emergency in Chile force Scotiabank to postpone investor day.” Last week Scotiabank’s CEO blamed the protests that began in October on an “intelligence breakdown” with people outside Chile “that came in with an intention of creating havoc.” In a story titled “Why Brian Porter is doubling down on Scotiabank’s Latin American expansion”, he told the Financial Post that Twitter accounts tied to Russia sparked the unrest!
Two weeks into massive demonstrations against Pinera’s government, Trudeau held a phone conversation with the Chilean president who had a 14% approval rating. According to Amnesty International, 19 people had already died and dozens more were seriously injured in protests that began against a hike in transit fares and morphed into a broader challenge to economic inequality. A couple thousand were also arrested by a government that declared martial law and sent the army onto the streets.
According to the published report of the conversation, Trudeau and Piñera discussed their joint campaign to remove Venezuela’s president and the Prime Minister criticized “election irregularities in Bolivia”, which were disingenuously used to justify ousting leftist indigenous president Evo Morales. A Canadian Press story noted, “a summary from the Prime Minister’s Office of Trudeau’s phone call with Piñera made no direct mention of the ongoing turmoil in Chile, a thriving country with which Canada has negotiated a free trade agreement.”
Despite numerous appeals from Canada’s Chilean community, the Trudeau government has stayed quiet concerning the fiercest repression in Chile since Augusto Pinochet’s dictatorship. A delegation of Québec parliamentarians, professors and union leaders that travelled to Chile in late January recently demanded Ottawa speak out against the abuses (four died in protest related violence last week). In a release about the delegation Mining Watch noted that over 50% of Chile’s large mining industry is Canadian owned. Canadian firms are also major players in the country’s infrastructure and Scotiabank is one of the country’s biggest banks. Chile is the top destination for Canadian investment in Latin America at over $20 billion.
As I detail in my forthcoming book House of Mirrors — Justin Trudeau’s Foreign Policy (Black Rose), the Liberals have said little about hundreds of killings by regimes in Haiti, Honduras, Bolivia, Chile and Colombia. On the other hand, they’ve aggressively condemned rights violations in Venezuela and Nicaragua. Many on the Left would say that is because those governments are aligned with Washington, which is true. But, it’s also because they are friendly to corporate Canada. If you want to understand Ottawa’s positions in Latin America look to what Canadian bankers have to say.
House of Mirrors — Justin Trudeau’s Foreign Policy will be released in March. To help organize an event for the Spring tour please email yvesengler (@) hotmail.com.
Organization of American States election observers have played an important role in subverting Bolivian democracy.
While some may find it hard to believe that a regional electoral monitoring body would consciously subvert democracy, their actions in the South American country are not dissimilar to previous US/Canada backed OAS missions in Haiti.
“The OAS Election Audit That Triggered Morales’ Fall in Bolivia”, explained a New York Times headline. For his part, Bolivian President Evo Morales said the OAS “is in the service of the North American empire.”
After the October 20 presidential election, the OAS immediately cried foul. The next day the organization released a statement that expressed “its deep concern and surprise at the drastic and hard-to-explain change in the trend of the preliminary results [from the quick count] revealed after the closing of the polls.” Two days later they followed that statement up with a preliminary report that repeated their claim that “changes in the TREP [quick count] trend were hard to explain and did not match the other measurements available.”
But, the “hard-to-explain” changes cited by the OAS were entirely expected, as detailed in the Centre for Economic Policy Research’s report “What Happened in Bolivia’s 2019 Vote Count? The Role of the OAS Electoral Observation Mission”. The CEPR analysis points out that Morales’ percentage lead over the second place candidate Carlos Mesa increased steadily as votes from rural, largely indigenous, areas were tabulated. Additionally, the 47.1% of the vote Morales garnered aligns with pre-election polls and the vote score for his Movement toward Socialism party. The hullabaloo about the quick count stopping at 83% of the vote was preplanned and there is no evidence there was a pause in the actual counting.
But, the OAS’ statements gave oxygen to opposition protests. Their unsubstantiated criticism of the election have also been widely cited internationally to justify Morales’ ouster. In response to OAS claims, protests and Washington and Ottawa saying they would not recognize Morales’s victory, the Bolivian President agreed to a “binding” OAS audit of the first round of the election. Unsurprisingly the OAS’ preliminary audit report alleged “irregularities and manipulation” and called for new elections overseen by a new electoral commission. Immediately after the OAS released its preliminary audit US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo went further, saying “all government officials and officials of any political organizations implicated in the flawed October 20 elections should step aside from the electoral process.” What started with an easy-to-explain discrepancy between the quick count and final results of the actual counting spiraled into the entire election is suspect and anyone associated with it must go.
At Tuesday’s Special Meeting of the OAS Permanent Council on Bolivia the representative of Antigua and Barbuda criticized the opaque way in which the OAS electoral mission to Bolivia released its statements and reports. She pointed out how the organization made a series of agreements with the Bolivian government that were effectively jettisoned. A number of Latin American countries echoed this view.
US and Canadian representatives, on the other hand, applauded the OAS’ work in Bolivia. Canada’s representative to the OAS boasted that two Canadian technical advisers were part of the audit mission to Bolivia and that Canada financed the OAS effort that discredited Bolivia’s presidential election. Canada is the second largest contributor to the OAS, which receives between 44% and 57% of its budget from Washington.
It’s not surprising that an electoral mission from the Washington-based organization would subvert Bolivian democracy. OAS electoral observers have played more flagrant role in undermining Haitian democracy. In late 2010/early-2011 the US/Canada used an OAS election “Expert Verification Mission” to help extreme right-wing candidate Michel Martelly become president. Canada put up $6 million for elections that excluded Fanmi Lavalas from participating and following the first round of voting in November 2010, forced the candidate whom Haiti’s electoral council had in second place, Jude Celestin, out of the runoff. After Martelly’s supporters protested their candidate’s third place showing, a six person OAS mission, including a Canadian representative, concluded that Martelly deserved to be in the second round. But, in analyzing the OAS methodology, the CEPR determined that “the Mission did not establish any legal, statistical, or other logical basis for its conclusions.” Nevertheless, Ottawa and Washington pushed the Haitian government to accept the OAS’s recommendations. Foreign minister Lawrence Cannon said he “strongly urges the Provisional Electoral Council to accept and implement the [OAS] report’s recommendations and to proceed with the next steps of the electoral process accordingly.” In an interview he warned that “time is running out”, adding that “our ambassador has raised this with the president [Rene Préval] himself.” The CEPR described the intense western lobbying. “The international community, led by the US, France, and Canada, has been intensifying the pressure on the Haitian government to allow presidential candidate Michel Martelly to proceed to the second round of elections instead of [ruling party candidate] Jude Celestin.” This pressure included some Haitian officials having their US visas revoked and there were threats that aid would be cut off if Martelly’s vote total was not increased as per the OAS recommendation.
Half of Haiti’s electoral council agreed to the OAS changes, but the other half did not. The second round was unconstitutional, noted Haïti Liberté, as “only four of the eight-member Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) have voted to proceed with the second round, one short of the five necessary. Furthermore, the first-round results have not been published in the journal of record, Le Moniteur, and President Préval has not officially convoked Haitians to vote, both constitutional requirements.”
The absurdity of the whole affair did not stop the Canadian government from supporting the elections. Official election monitors from this country gave a thumbs-up to this exercise in what they said was democracy. After Martelly won the second round with 16.7 percent of registered voters support Cannon declared: “We congratulate the people of Haiti, who exercised their fundamental democratic right to choose who will govern their country and represent them on the world stage.” The left weekly Haiti Progrès took a different view. Describing the fraudulent nature of the elections, the paper explained: “The form of democracy that Washington, Paris and Ottawa want to impose on us is becoming a reality.”
A decade earlier another OAS election mission helped sabotage democracy in Haiti. After voting for 7,000 positions an OAS team on site described the May 2000 elections as “a great success for the Haitian population which turned out in large and orderly numbers to choose both their local and national governments.”
As the opposition protested the scope of Fanmi Lavalas’ victory, the OAS jumped on a technicality in the counting of eight Senate seats to subsequently characterize the elections as “deeply flawed”. The 50 percent plus one vote required for a first-round victory was determined by calculating the percentages from the votes for the top four candidates, while the OAS contended that the count should include all candidates. OAS concerns were disingenuous since they worked with the electoral council to prepare the elections and were fully aware of the counting method beforehand. The same procedure was used in prior elections, but they failed to voice any concerns until Fanmi Lavalas’ landslide victory. Finally, using the OAS method would not have altered the outcome of the elections and even after Jean Bertrand Aristide got the seven Lavalas senators to resign (one was from another party) the “deeply flawed” description remained.
Haiti’s political opposition used the OAS criticism of the election to justify boycotting the November 2000 presidential election, which they had little chance of winning. The US and Canada used the claims of electoral irregularities to justify withholding aid and Inter-American Development Bank loans to the Haitian government. OAS Resolutions 806 and 822 gave non-elected opposition parties an effective veto over the resumption of foreign aid to Aristide’s government. The OAS claims of “deeply flawed” elections played an important part in a multipronged campaign to oust Aristide’s government.
In an editorial responding to the coup in Bolivia, People’s Voicecalled for Canada to withdraw from the Washington dominated OAS. Internationalist minded Canadians should support that position.
But we should also recognize the blow Morales’ ouster represents to any effort to subvert the OAS. The Bolivian President’s removal is a further setback to the Latin American integration efforts represented in forums such as the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States. A potential replacement for the OAS, CELAC included all Latin American and Caribbean nations. But Canada and the US were excluded. By helping oust Morales the OAS has taken revenge on a politician who pushed an alternative, non-Washington based, model for ‘Nuestra America’.