Updated February 20, 2020
Venezuela’s self declared interim president and opposition leader met with the Venezuelan diaspora at a public talk at All Saints Event Space in Ottawa on Monday.
Over 500 people attended the talk, many coming from all across Canada to get a chance to meet the Venezuelan opposition leader.
“We are very grateful that he was able to come visit the Venezuelan community and meet with a lot of high ranking members of the Canadian government,” said Gabriel Mota.
The 24-year-old drove from Toronto to attend the meeting.
The meeting was organized by volunteers with the Venezuelan Embassy and included remarks from Venezuelan Ambassador Orlando Viera-Blanco and Canadian Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs Rob Oliphant.
“This here today is a sign of the commitment that Canada has made, is making, and will continue to make with President Guaido” said Oliphant as he spoke directly to Guaido on stage.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau met with Guaido earlier that day as part of an international tour aimed at gaining support against the socialist regime of Nicolas Maduro. One thing stood out from this meeting; the Venezuelan opposition needs Canada’s support in enlisting Cuba as an ally.
The Canadian government has been vocal about its backing of the opposition leader. In a press release made by the Prime Minister’s office, Trudeau expressed that Canada would continue to support Guaido in his efforts to return democracy to Venezuela. He reaffirmed his commitment stating that Canadians would continue to stand with the people of Venezuela in their pursuit of free and fair elections.
Canada is one of more than 50 nations that recognized Guaido-the head of Venezuela’s national congress- as Venezuela’s national leader last year on the grounds that Maduro’s re-election was illegitimate. Despite the various sanctions the Canadian government has imposed and the humanitarian aid it has provided since then, Guaido needs Canada to shift its relationship with Cuba.
Cuba and Maduro’s regime
The countries of the Lima Group recognize Guaido as the Interim President, however Maduro continues to have the strong support of other allies like Cuba.
Since the days of Hugo Chavez, both countries have had a long history of supporting each other in the international arena. In its most basic terms, the two countries have developed a pact which serves both of their interests: Venezuela provides oil to Cuba, and in return, Cuba supports Maduro’s military.
Despite Venezuela’s collapsing economy and harsh sanctions it faces, Maduro holds on to control of the military. The opposition recognizes that a change in government will not occur in Venezuela unless the military switches its backing to support Guaido’s government.
Canada’s role as a mediator
Canada’s diplomatic relationship with Cuba has always been strong. It is one of two countries in the Americas that maintained its relationship with the country after the Cuban revolution. With its strong relationship, Canada plays a key mediating role in the Venezuelan crisis.
Canadian Foreign Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne has already confirmed that he will be engaging with Cuba. With a scheduled meeting in Gatineau Quebec for the Lima group to discuss the situation of Venezuela happening in weeks to come, Canada shows no backing down of its commitment to supporting Guaido.
Venezuela is facing severe inflation rates, high levels of violence and the biggest refugee crisis the region has faced to date.