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Trudeau speaks with Venezuela’s Guaido ahead of Lima Group meeting

WATCH: Canada planning to intervene in Venezuela crisis

Justin Trudeau has personally offered his support to Venezuela’s Juan Guaido ahead of a Lima Group meeting in Ottawa on the country’s political crisis.

The prime minister’s office said in a statement that the two spoke Sunday and discussed “the importance of the international community sending a clear message regarding the illegitimacy of the (Nicolas) Maduro regime and the need to respect the Venezuelan constitution.”

“Both underscored the importance that free and fair presidential elections be held,” the statement said.

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Guaido, the head of the Venezuelan National Assembly, declared himself interim president last month after Maduro won re-election in a widely disputed vote in May. Guaido has vowed to restore democracy through free and fair elections.

His claim on the presidency has been backed by Canada and the U.S. as well as many of Venezuela’s neighbouring countries.

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Maduro, under whose regime Venezuela has suffered a devastating humanitarian crisis and deteriorating human rights, is clinging to power.

In a possible turning point in the conflict, this weekend Guaido called on members of the military to abandon the country’s socialist government following the defection of a high-ranking general, while Maduro proposed holding early elections that could potentially oust his challenger.

Maduro has described Guaido’s attempt to seize power as a U.S.-backed coup.

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Mass protests in Venezuela as Maduro flexes political muscle
Mass protests in Venezuela as Maduro flexes political muscle

According to the prime minister’s office, Guaido thanked Canada for its role in leading the international response.

Trudeau praised Guaido for his “courage and leadership” and offered Canada’s continued support.

Their meeting is the latest example of Canada’s active role in pushing for regime change in Venezuela.

READ MORE: France, Austria pledge to recognize Guaido if Venezuela’s Maduro does not call vote on Sunday

Foreign Affairs minister Chrystia Freeland announced last week that Canada is hosting an urgent meeting of the Lima Group on Monday.

The group was established in 2017 in an attempt to address Venezuela’s political and humanitarian crisis.

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Nearly all member countries, mostly Latin American and Caribbean nations, have recognized Guaido as president.

—With files from the Associated Press