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Canada’s New Democrats to formalize policy opposing Venezuela interference, sanctions

Ottawa: Canada’s opposition New Democrat Party (NDP) will formalize policy opposing interference in Venezuela’s sovereign affairs and sanctions against the South American country during the party convention later this week, parliamentarian Don Davies said on Tuesday.

Ahead of the NDP convention, which is set to kick off on Friday, several riding associations have put forth resolutions to adopt official party policy that would oppose interference in Venezuela’s domestic affairs, remove Canada from the Lima Group and seek to end sanctions against the country.

“Those resolutions, which I firmly support, are already NDP policy… the principle of non-intervention and lifting of sanctions are both positions that have been expressed by our foreign affairs critics on many occasions, so I would say that all that does is formalizes the position we’ve already taken,” Davies said on Tuesday during a virtual discussion concerning the humanitarian impact of sanctions on Venezuela.

The NDP’s position will not sit well with Canada’s other two main political parties, the governing Liberal Party and the official opposition Conservative Party, Davies said, noting the Conservatives’ support for the US position on Venezuela and slamming Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government’s “appalling” foreign policy record that has been far from progressive.

The parliamentarian contended that sanctions are meant to bring countries into compliance with international rules, as opposed to the foreign policy ambitions of international heavyweights, like the United States. Davies also said Ottawa and other Western nations target left-wing governments with embargoes, while ignoring the transgressions of right-wing regimes and authoritarian states, like Saudi Arabia.

During the event, UN Special Rapporteur Alena Douhan addressed the debilitating impact of sanctions, particularly the human cost of embargoes against Venezuela, including water, food and energy scarcity.

According to Douhan, 40 percent of Venezuelans operate in what is known as the “grey zone” of the economy, do not pay taxes and are often involved in criminal activities. The UN Special Rapporteur cited instances of Venezuelan women resorting to work in the sex trade for food.

Douhan explained that Venezuela’s centralized system of government makes it difficult for international companies to steer clear of sanctions thus denying Venezuelans access to a variety of services and goods that are traditionally procured from abroad.

Targeted sanctions violate human rights because human rights are universal and are not conditional on ideological or moral judgements. If there is criminal wrongdoing, it needs to be pursued as such, Douhan said.

Davies said that Canadian parliamentarians do not get a thorough accounting of the human cost of the sanctions, saying that muted or biased mainstream coverage results in a ‘slanted’ view of the situation in Venezuela.

Venezuela is in the midst of a political quagmire, which began last year after Juan Guaido, then head of the opposition-controlled National Assembly, proclaimed himself an interim president of Venezuela in a bid to oust reelected Nicolas Maduro from power.

Venezuelan-Canadian relations sunk to new lows after Ottawa, in coordination with the United States and other NATO allies, recognized Guaido as the interim president of Venezuela. Russia, China and a host of other nations recognize Maduro as the only legitimate leader of the country.

Canada is among a handful of countries that still recognizes Guaido, a failed coup leader, as Venezuela’s president. The European Union revoked its recognition earlier this year.

Maduro said Guaido is an American puppet working with the United States to topple the government of Venezuela to seize the country’s resources.

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