Canada will continue to stand up against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Tuesday night — declining, at the same time, to address his government’s recognition of Brazil’s controversial new president Jair Bolsonaro.
Trudeau’s remarks came in response to a question at a town hall at Brock University in St. Catharines, Ont.
A man asked Trudeau why Canada didn’t recognize Maduro’s government but recognizes Bolsonaro, pointing out that Brazil’s justice minister imprisoned the far-right president’s main political rival, former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, blocking him from running in Brazil’s elections.
Trudeau issued a lengthy response condemning Maduro without addressing Bolsonaro.
“I would propose to you, sir, that anyone who contends to be a friend of Venezuela… who contends that they are a friend to the Venezuelan people would be very clear in standing up and condemning the Maduro government that has been responsible for terrible oppression, for terrible marginalization, for a humanitarian crisis the likes of which South America has not seen in a long time, leading to mass exodus, an extreme number of refugees fleeing all across South America all because of an illegitimate dictator named Maduro who is continuing to not respect their constitution, the rule of law and the principles of what is true and fair for the future,” Trudeau said.
WATCH: Defying critics, Venezuela’s Maduro starts new term
The questioner then stated something in response that was inaudible, to which Trudeau responded, “Sorry sir, I disagree and the Venezuelan people will probably significantly disagree with you as well because they’re suffering and they need true democracy.”
Trudeau’s comments echoed those of Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland, who said last week that Maduro had “seized power through fraudulent and anti-democratic elections” and warned that Venezuelans’ suffering would be compounded under his rule.
Maduro’s re-election in late 2018 was widely viewed as fraudulent, with critics blaming his policies for plunging Venezuela into economic crisis.
Freeland’s office did issue a statement in October congratulating Brazilians on their presidential election.
However, the statement didn’t mention Bolsonaro by name, instead focusing on congratulating Brazilians for exercising their democratic right to vote.
Bolsonaro ran on a tough-on-crime platform. On Tuesday, he followed through on a campaign promise by signing a temporary decree making it easier for Brazilians to buy guns.
— With files from Reuters