January 28, 2019 3:19 pm
Updated: January 28, 2019 4:56 pm

Canada hosting ‘urgent’ Lima Group meeting on Venezuela as U.S sanctions oil

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland on Monday called on Nicolas Maduro to cede power to Venezuela's National Assembly, "the only remaining democratic institution" in the country.

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Canada will host a meeting of the Lima Group of nations next week to discuss how to support Juan Guaido in seizing interim power from Venezuelan dictator Nicolas Maduro until free elections to replace him can be held.

In a press conference with reporters on Monday, Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland described the meeting as “urgent” and said it will take place on Feb. 4.

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As well, the United States announced shortly after it is imposing through executive order new sanctions on Venezuela’s state-owned oil company, Petroleos de Venezuela, S.A. (PDVSA).

READ MORE: Canada to host international meeting on Venezuela turmoil, source says

Maduro seized power in May 2018 elections that have been widely condemned as neither free nor fair.

The Canadian government has imposed repeated rounds of sanctions against individuals tied to his regime over the last two years, including Maduro himself, under both the Magnitsky Act and the Special Economic Measures Act.

READ MORE: Russia sent private military contractors to Venezuela to guard Maduro: sources

Guaido, who is the elected leader of a coalition of parties holding power in the National Assembly there, declared himself interim leader last week.

The United States and Canada quickly issued statements backing the move until an election can be held.

The Lima Group followed suit.

WATCH BELOW: Canada will host ‘urgent meeting’ of Lima Group amid Venezuela political tensions: Freeland

“This is our neighbourhood,” Freeland said when asked why Canada was taking the democratic crisis so seriously.

“Our work in the Lima Group, our work on Venezuela, has been one of our government’s top foreign policy priorities.”

READ MORE: Canada will recognize Juan Guaido as Venezuela’s president, follows move by U.S. to do the same

Freeland added the threat posed by the rise of authoritarianism in the Western Hemisphere is one that must be dealt with.

“We have a very direct interest in what happens in our hemisphere,” she said. “That’s why we have been so active and will consider to be so active.”

Venezuela has been gripped by economic crisis and hyperinflation over the last several years.

WATCH BELOW: Protesters in Venezuela hurl objects, chant slogans at police officers during anti-Maduro protests

In the midst of that, Maduro has repeatedly moved to consolidate power and move Venezuela away from democracy.

Mass street protests opposing Maduro saw thousands of Venezuelans demand free elections last week.

READ MORE: Canada played key role in secret talks against Venezuela’s Maduro

Guaido declared himself interim president while those were taking place and received vocal shows of support from people as he attended the protests.

The Lima Group, formed in August 2017 in response to Maduro’s move away from democracy, has a return to democracy as its goal.

Its backing for Guaido is contingent on him calling an election within 30 days.

WATCH BELOW: Justin Trudeau defends Canada’s policy toward Venezuela, sidesteps Brazil question

His declaration last week came after weeks of secret diplomacy and travel in which Canada reportedly played a key role.

Guaido has also prompted a split between democratic and autocratic nations in the midst of a broader global fight between countries like Russia actively looking to subvert democratic norms and the rule of law.

Russia announced shortly after the U.S., Canada and the Lima Group backed Guaido that it is supporting Maduro.

Maduro still holds crucial control over the military in Venezuela, the support of which will be vital in ensuring any transition can be sustained.

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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