Category Archives: Venezuela

Does Trudeau need an intervention? Venezuela plan a path of misery and failure

imagesJustin 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 webinar with Venezuela’s Foreign Minister on “Canadian Interference in Venezuela” here.

 

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Canadian Left rejects Organization of American States

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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 webinar here.

 

 

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Historic event with Venezuelan Foreign Minister on “Canadian Interference”

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Join an historic event on Thursday, August 20. The foreign minister of a country of 30 million that’s had diplomatic relations with Canada for seven decades will discuss Ottawa’s efforts to overthrow his government.

Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza will talk about “Canadian Interference in Venezuela.” The event promotion reads:

“Nearly two years ago, the Trudeau government threw their wholehearted support behind a US-backed plan to declare an opposition politician, Juan Guiadó, ‘Interim President’ of Venezuela.   Since then, the Trump administration has orchestrated numerous coup attempts and appealed for an army mutiny against Nicolás Maduro. It has also adopted extreme unilateral coercive economic measures against the country. The Canadian government has sanctioned Venezuelan officials and built up an oppositional international coalition.

“Trump and Trudeau’s sanctions and efforts to stoke a revolt are having an ever-greater impact on ordinary Venezuelans livelihood and ability to feed themselves. At the same time, Guaidó’s chances of taking power are slimmer today than at any point since he claimed the presidency. “Still, Trudeau supports Washington’s regime change efforts.

“Is there a limit to what the Liberals will support?”

One reason Canadians have an inaccurate view of their country’s role in the world is that other countries’ politicians generally avoid publicly challenging Canadian policy. They do so for a series of reasons, some of which are tied to Canada’s somewhat unique position in global politics. Canada is a G7 nation that has been particularly close to the two main empires of the past two centuries. Yet it has never had formal colonies (First Nations aside) and has almost always played second or third fiddle to acts of US or British aggression. Partly because it doesn’t get criticized internationally and the Canadian Left prefers to focus on US foreign policy, Ottawa has a comparatively clean reputation. As such, it’s generally not considered strategic for any specific government to highlight Canada’s bad behavior.

There are few, if any, historic equivalents to Arreaza’s planned talk. I’m unaware, for instance, of a foreign politician delivering a lecture at a Canadian university critical of Canada’s international policy. Here are the closest equivalents I came up with.

In September 1956 Egyptian leader Gamal Nasser condemned Ottawa for selling Israel F86 jets a month before invading its neighbor. He declared, “the supplying of Israel with arms despite her repeated aggressions against Arab frontiers is considered a hostile act aimed at the whole Arab nation.” In the lead-up to the 1967 Israeli invasion Nasser again complained about Ottawa’s “biased stand in favour of Israel.”

In 1960 Congolese independence leader Patrice Lumumba told a crowd he went to Canada but was “disappointed to find that although honest, Canada was just another imperialist country.” A decade later Salvador Allende’s Minister of Finance criticized Canada’s “banker’s attitude” after Export Development Canada refused to finance Canadian exports to Chile. Ottawa did so as part of a broader US-led effort to isolate the socialist government.

Days after I poured fake blood on foreign affairs minister Pierre Pettigrew’s hands and yelled “Pettigrew lies, Haitians die” during a June 2005 press conference on Haiti, ousted president Jean Bertrand Aristide was asked about the incident. In an interview in South Africa Aristide told journalist Naomi Klein the Canadian government had Haitian “blood on its hands.”

In a similar vein popular opposition senator Moise Jean-Charles has repeatedly criticized Canada’s role in the 2004 coup against Aristide. At a major 2013 demonstration against President Michel Martelly Jean-Charles told Haiti Liberté, “we are asking the Americans, French, and Canadians to come and collect their errand boy because he cannot lead the country any more.”

After Canada backed the 2009 military coup against Manuel Zelaya, the ousted Honduran foreign minister told TeleSur that Ottawa and Washington were providing “oxygen” to the military government. Patricia Rodas called on Canada and the US to suspend aid to the de facto regime. During an official visit to Mexico with Zelaya, Rodas asked Mexican president Felipe Calderon, who was about to meet Prime Minister Stephen Harper and US President Barack Obama, to lobby Ottawa and Washington on their behalf. “We are asking [Calderon] to be an intermediary for our people with the powerful countries of the world, for example, the US and at this moment Canada, which have lines of military and economic support with Honduras.”

The above examples are the closest parallels I could think of to Arreaza’s talk on Canada’s interference in Venezuela. But what distinguishes the Venezuelan foreign minister’s upcoming event is the scope of the discussion. In addition, he is a sitting foreign minister and will talk directly to a Canadian audience.

The Venezuelan government appears ever more willing to push back against Canada’s brazen campaign to overthrow it. As I detailed in “How Venezuela helped defeat Canada’s Security Council bid”, the only country’s diplomats — from what I saw — that publicly campaigned against Canada’s bid for a seat on the Security Council were Venezuelan.

The international community’s rejection of Canada’s bid for a seat on the Security Council offers internationalist minded Canadians an important opportunity to re-evaluate this country’s international policies. Following Canada’s second consecutive Security Council defeat a growing coalition of organizations and prominent Canadians have signed on to an open letter calling for a “fundamental reassessment of Canadian foreign policy.”

One of its 10 questions asks: “Why is Canada involved in efforts to overthrow Venezuela’s UN-recognized government, a clear violation of the principle of non-intervention in other country’s internal affairs?”

Arreaza’s talk will offer a unique opportunity for Canadians who are troubled by the Trudeau Liberals’ empowering of a bully president to hear directly from a government standing up against a campaign of intimidation by Canada and USA.

You can register for the webinar here.

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Propaganda or principle? Trudeau on Venezuela and Haiti

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Haitian president Jovenel Moïse and Trudeau

Propaganda or principle? In the world of foreign affairs the latter is often claimed but the former is much more common.

One way to evaluate the seriousness of the Trudeau government’s stated objectives in seeking to oust Venezuela’s government is to examine their policy elsewhere in the Caribbean. While they talk about the constitution, democracy and human rights there, the Liberals ignore their stated ideals in Haiti.

The only reason corrupt repressive and illegitimate president Jovenel Moïse remains in office is due to the support of Ottawa and Washington. Since July 2018 there have been massive protests and strikes, including one that shuttered Port-au-Prince for six weeks, calling for Moïse’s removal. But, the US and Canada have continued to offer decisive diplomatic, financial and policing support. (A by-product of US/Canadian policy, Moïse benefited from the destruction of Haiti’s most popular political party, Fanmi Lavalas, in the 2004 coup and aggressive interference in the 2010 presidential election in favor of Michel Martelly, who is Moïse’s mentor.)

The constitutional and human rights situation in Haiti is deteriorating. Since the start of the year Moïse has governed by decree and has recently begun appointing local level officials. There haven’t been elections during Moïse time in office, so the mandates of most officials have expired.

Plunging the country into a greater constitutional morass, eight members of the provisional electoral council resigned last week (the other member stepped aside a few weeks earlier). They resigned in response to a letter from Moïse giving different social sectors four days to either confirm or replace their representatives on the electoral council.

Two months ago, nine gangs in Port-au-Prince brokered an alliance. Backed by Moïse, the “G9 and Family” accord is largely designed to deter protests and election organizing. InSight Crime writer Parker Asmann explains, “the G9 alliance has reportedly benefited from strong ties to the government of President Jovenel Moïse. The gang leaders are seemingly free from persecution so long as they help keep the peace in the neighborhoods they control. In exchange, Moïse’s government has found in them loyal foot soldiers quelling insecurity, stamping out opposition voices and shoring up political support across the capital.”

The mastermind of the G9 is Jimmy Chérizier, alias “Barbecue”. A former police officer, Chérizier was involved in a November 2017 police operation that left at least 14 innocent civilians dead in the neighborhood of Grand Ravine. Chérizier has also been accused of leading a four day killing spree that left as many as 71 dead in La Saline in November 2018 and a recent United Nations report named Chérizier in killings in the neighborhood of Bel-Air last November. After the La Saline massacre he was dismissed from the police and a warrant was put out for Chérizier’s arrest. But, the 14-year veteran of the force was recently photographed smiling next to a group of police.

Chérizier likely joined the police with a host of other thugs after Canada and the US took over the force following the 2004 coup against Jean Bertrand Aristide and other elected officials. Since then Ottawa has financed police facilities and Canadian police have trained their Haitian counterparts. Canadian diplomats regularly attend Haitian police ceremonies and praise the force. But, they rarely criticize their abundant abuses. In a Le Nouveliste interview last month Canadian ambassador Stuart Savage refused to answer a direct question about police repression. The reporter asked on “June 29 there was a demonstration that was suppressed by the police in Haiti. How does Canada, which works for human rights, which funds the National Police of Haiti, which helps the Haitian government, understand what happened that Monday?” Savage responded, “I am not aware of all the facts of this specific event. But I can tell you that in a democracy, the right to organize peaceful demonstrations is a given and must be respected. I hope that here and elsewhere this right will continue to be upheld, because it is necessary that people who have perspectives to share, to communicate, to convey, have a peaceful means to do so.”

Did Savage seek out information about the repression of a Nou pap dòmi rally, reported on by Le Nouveliste, and subsequently express Canada’s opposition to the police suppressing a protest? Not from what I could find. I searched in vain for anything critical of police actions on the embassy or ambassador’s twitter accounts. Similarly, there’s nothing about the widely discussed G9 gang alliance or the electoral council resigning. But, the Canadian ambassador in Haiti has taken the time to criticize the Venezuelan government. Savage’s last two tweets were about the Canadian government’s campaign to oust Nicolás Maduro’s government.

As respect for the constitution, democracy and human rights go from bad to worse in Haiti there is barely a murmur of criticism from Canadian officials. At the same time the Trudeau government claims it is defending said ideals in Venezuela.

 

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How Venezuela helped defeat Canada’s Security Council bid

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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?

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Ottawa’s ties with far right Colombian president undermines human rights rhetoric regarding Venezuela

 

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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.

 

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Trudeau’s extraordinary campaign to overthrow Maduro

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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.

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Canada out of the Lima Group, Core Group and OAS

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“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.

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Filed under Canada in Haiti, Latin America, Venezuela

Bankers shape Canadian policy in Latin America

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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.

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Filed under Justin Trudeau, Latin America, Venezuela

Unifor aligns with Liberal foreign policy instead of international solidarity

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Chrystia Freeland and Unifor President Jerry Dias

Inviting Chrystia Freeland to address this week’s Unifor convention undermines the union’s claims of international solidarity. As Foreign Affairs Minister, Freeland has pursued staunchly pro-corporate and pro-US policies. She has been bad for workers and their families around the world. Let us count a few of the ways:

  1. Freeland’s department continues to offer diplomatic and other forms of support to mining companies responsible for major abuses abroad. The Liberals broke their promise to establish a genuine ombudsperson to supervise Canadian mining companies’ international operations.
  2. Freeland has campaigned aggressively to overthrow Venezuela’s government. She played a central role in establishing the “Lima Group” of governments opposed to President Nicolas Maduro and has introduced four rounds of unilateral sanctions against Venezuelan officials. The Associated Press reported on Canada’s “key role” in building international diplomatic support for claiming the right wing head of Venezuela’s national assembly was president, which included Freeland speaking to Juan Guaidó “the night before Maduro’s swearing-in ceremony to offer her government’s support should he confront the socialist leader.”
  3. One of Freeland’s allies in the Lima Group, which claims to be promoting Venezuela’s constitution, explicitly defied his own constitution in running for re-election. Global Affairs Canada immediately endorsed Honduran narco-dictator Juan Orlando Hernandez’ farcical 2017 election ‘victory’.
  4. Freeland has pressured Havana to turn on Caracas. Joining Washington’s effort to squeeze Cuba, Global Affairs Canada recently closed the visa section at its embassy in Havana, forcing Cubans wanting to visit Canada or get work/study permits to travel to a Canadian embassy in another country to submit their documents.
  5. Elsewhere in the Caribbean, Ottawa has propped up a corrupt, repressive and illegitimate Haitian president who has faced multiple general strikes and mass protests calling for his removal.
  6. The Liberals have also failed to keep their promise to re-engage diplomatically with Iran. Worse still, Freeland has echoed the warmongers in Washington and Tel Aviv.
  7. Freeland has deepened ties to an opponent of Iran pursuing violent, anti-democratic, policies in Yemen, Libya and Sudan. Last May Freeland met United Arab Emirates foreign minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed and the Liberals have signed a series of accords with the repressive monarchy.
  8. Freeland is anti-Palestinian. Just before a November meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Freeland touted Canada’s “unwavering and ironclad” support for Israel and her ministry has justified the killing of peaceful Palestinian protesters. Isolating Canada from world opinion, Freeland sided with the US, Israel and some tiny Pacific island states in opposing a resolution supporting Palestinian statehood backed by 176 nations.
  9. Freeland’s grandfather was a Nazi propagandist. While obviously not responsible for her grandpa’s misdeeds during World War II, Freeland has praised him and deflected questions on the matter by saying Moscow may be trying to “destabilize” Canadian democracy. In so doing she has stoked Russophobia. Ottawa has ramped up its military presence on Russia’s doorstep (Ukraine, Poland and Latvia) and recently added Ukraine to Canada’s Automatic Firearms Country Control List, which allows Canadian companies to export weapons to that country with little restriction.

A March 2017 memo from the US embassy in Ottawa to the State Department in Washington entitled “Canada Adopts ‘America First’ Foreign Policy” claimed Justin Trudeau appointed Freeland foreign minister in order to promote the interests of the Donald Trump administration. The cable was authored just weeks after Freeland was appointed foreign minister and in it US officials conclude that Trudeau promoted Freeland “in large part because of her strong U.S. contacts” and that her “number one priority” was working closely with Washington.

A knowledgeable critic of Canadian foreign policy recently told me they thought Freeland was worse than Conservative foreign minister John Baird. This may be true. The question for Unifor is what more would Freeland have to do to make her unacceptable as a keynote speaker?

Inviting Freeland to their convention is part of the union’s controversial embrace of the Liberal Party (Prime Minister Trudeau also spoke). But, it also reflects indifference to the injustices Canada contributes to abroad. I couldn’t find a single Unifor statement that directly criticized Freeland or Canadian foreign policy (the union is a member of Common Frontiers, which has criticized Canadian policy in Venezuela and Honduras). But, the union has devoted significant energy and resources to promoting a boycott of GM cars made in Mexico. On Tuesday when Freeland addresses the convention Unifor is giving their Nelson Mandela award to Romeo Dallaire. As I detail here, applauding the aggressive liberal imperialist is wrong and giving Dallaire an award named after Mandela is simply embarrassing.

Giving a former general an award, boycotting Mexican cars and inviting Freeland/Trudeau – combined with failing to challenge Canadian foreign policy – reflects a union aligned with Canada’s ruling class against working people elsewhere. It’s a shame that six years after its creation Unifor has jettisoned the progressive, internationalist rhetoric that was part of its founding.

Hopefully, rank and file members can reclaim their union. A good way to start might be to demonstrate their disapproval of Freeland’s invitation to speak at the convention.

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Filed under Justin Trudeau, Middle East, Venezuela