February 2, 2019 12:00 pm

COMMENTARY: Canada’s largest union shames itself with embrace of Venezuelan dictator

Canada, the United States and a slew of Latin American nations have recognized Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido as interim president, leaving Nicolas Maduro ever more isolated.

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The Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) is Canada’s largest union, representing over 680,000 public sector workers. They claim to “advocate for workers who deliver the public services people depend on,” as well as advocating for “better public services.”

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However, that doesn’t tell the whole story about what CUPE is and what it does. For example, CUPE is an inherently political organization. They are a founding partner in the NDP and actively campaign and take sides in elections right across the country. Mind you, no one should be shocked that a public sector union in Canada is politically active, and at least one can make the case that these activities could affect the sort of change that these unions believe will have a positive impact on the lives of their members.

So why on earth would CUPE weigh in on the situation in Venezuela, let alone take the side of that country’s oppressive dictator? Why would CUPE, which professes to believe in free and fair elections, endorse the illegitimate election that returned Nicolas Maduro to power? And why would CUPE, which professes to support social justice and the working class, embrace a regime that is murdering, imprisoning, and starving its people?

WATCH: Trudeau says clause in Venezuela constitution shows Guaido is interim president

This is utterly shameful. Embracing Maduro and his oppression and corruption is only going to prolong Venezuela’s misery.

Fortunately, Canada has taken the correct and obvious position here. On January 23rd, the feds announced that we would recognize Juan Guaidó, president of Venezuela’s National Assembly, as the interim president of that country. Because the United States also did so at the time, the line from CUPE (and echoed by others among the Canadian far left) is that we have “chosen to side with Donald Trump and U.S. foreign policy.”

This is an absurd claim. First of all, there are many issues on which we share foreign policy interests with our close allies, including the United States. On this issue, however, we are not following the U.S. lead – if anything, it’s the opposite.

Canada was part of the Lima Group (along with Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Panama, Paraguay, Peru and Saint Lucia) that declared on January 4th that Venezuela’s 2018 presidential election lacked legitimacy and therefore the new term of President Maduro would not be recognized.

This process did not involve the U.S. and the statement was issued prior to the Trump administration taking a stand on the matter. It is interesting how groups like CUPE fail to note the position of the other Lima Group countries. I’ve not seen any group accusing Canada of choosing to side with, say, Argentinian or Colombian foreign policy.

READ MORE: Maduro or Guaido? UN, global banks not sure who to deal with in Venezuela

Therefore, CUPE’s assessment that Maduro is the rightful president is at odds with the evidence and at odds with much of the international community. Giving Maduro legitimacy only serves to further undermine Venezuela’s democracy. Furthermore, it makes a mockery of CUPE’s claim that “the people of Venezuela have the right to determine their economic and political future.”

Would those be the same “people of Venezuela” who have fled the country by the millions? The same “people of Venezuela” who have taken to the streets by the hundreds of thousands? The same “people of Venezuela” who are being brutalized, jailed, and starved? This is not the political future the “people of Venezuela” have chosen, but rather the one inflicted upon them by the Maduro regime.

And it’s not just the wealthy elite who are protesting or being targeted. As Human Rights Watch has pointed out, “Security forces have arbitrarily detained and tortured protesters, and raids in low-income communities have led to widespread allegations of abuse.”

Ironically, Maduro and his predecessor Hugo Chavez are the extremely wealthy ones. How perverse that in a confrontation between an opulent dictator and the oppressed working poor, Canada’s largest labour union chooses to side with the former.

READ MORE: Mike Pence says it’s time to ‘end the Maduro regime’ in Venezuela

It appears to be an ideological blind spot; that such is the commitment to solidarity with fellow socialists abroad, many labour groups and others on the far left in Canada choose denial over uncomfortable facts.

In doing so, however, they’re ultimately hurting the citizens of countries like Venezuela, and further damaging their own credibility here at home. None of this does a damn thing for CUPE’s members.

Rob Breakenridge is host of “Afternoons with Rob Breakenridge” on Global News Radio 770 Calgary and a commentator for Global News.

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

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