Instead, Canada’s former ambassador to the country says the focus of a Monday Lima Group meeting in Ottawa needs to be on building support for a peaceful transition.
In an interview with the West Block, Ben Roswell, president of the Canadian International Council, said while he is not involved in any work underway ahead of the upcoming meeting, he expects the crucial questions of how to organize free elections and discourage the U.S., China and Russia from interfering will dominate the talks.
“The solution can only come from within Venezuela. This is a Venezuelan problem, the Venezuelans have spoken, are clear about what solution they want, and the role for the rest of us is to support them and to follow what Venezuelans are doing,” he said.
“It’s totally irresponsible for outside powers to be threatening military intervention or in the case of some, actually intervening militarily already.”
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Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland described the meeting as “urgent” when she announced it last week.
The Lima Group is made up of 14 countries, all except Canada located in South America, that want to see Venezuela return to democracy.
Nicolas Maduro, the country’s dictator, has steadily consolidated power over recent years including abolishing the Venezuelan constitution and creating an alternative legislature in an attempt to circumvent the opposition-controlled National Assembly.
Maduro was sworn in for a second term on Jan. 10, 2019, but the lack of free and fair elections in 2018 prompted the Lima Group to declare him illegitimate.
Juan Guaido, leader of the opposition coalition with control of the Venezuelan National Assembly, shortly afterwards declared himself interim president until elections can be held following weeks of secret meetings with Lima Group backers.
The United States, Canada, the Lima Group and the European Parliament, as well as others, all declared him the legitimate president and offered their backing contingent on elections being called within 30 days. But Maduro maintains the support of the country’s military, which Roswell says seems to be in a “wait-and-see” mode.
“How to actually organize elections in this highly divisive, highly polarized environment is going to be quite difficult and I think that will occupy the bulk of the conversations on Monday,” he said.
Russia and China, meanwhile, back the Maduro regime despite Guaido having the support of the Venezuelan people.
That support, and the financial backing that comes with it, is the only reason Maduro is still in power, Roswell noted.
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Attempting to de-escalate by urging outside powers to back off should be the next step by the Lima Group, he said.
“I’m not sure it would necessarily lead to a change in Russian behaviour or Chinese behaviour or to Donald Trump holding his mouth shut — it’s very difficult for him to do — but it would send a signal that the region is united behind there being a peaceful transition in power,” he said.
Roswell also said the fact the military has not yet moved against Guaido indicates they recognize the scope of the opposition to him among the people.
“The armed forces are clearly recognizing the reality that the vast majority of Venezuelans are against the president,” he said.
“At some point, there’ll be people within the regime that want to get things right with the future leaders of Venezuela and will want to save their skin.”