Wed, Feb 06, 2019 - Page 4 News List

Lima Group backs call for Venezuelan regime change

‘NO FORCE’:The group’s members said they would recognize opposition leader Juan Guaido’s ‘legitimate government of Venezuela,’ and urged more nations to follow suit

AFP, OTTAWA

Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland, at podium, briefs reporters following the 10th ministerial meeting of the Lima Group in Ottawa on Monday, as her Peruvian and Argentine counterparts, Nestor Popolizio, left, and Jorge Faurie, look on.

Photo: EPA-EFE

The Lima Group of Latin American countries and Canada on Monday called for a peaceful change in government in Venezuela, without military intervention.

They also urged Venezuela’s military to support Venezuelan National Assembly President Juan Guaido, the opposition leader, as interim president and “not to impede the entry and transit of humanitarian assistance to Venezuelans.”

Eleven of the group’s 14 members said in a joint statement after meeting in Ottawa — which saw protesters briefly disrupt a closing press conference — that they “reiterate their support for a process of peaceful transition through political and diplomatic means without the use of force.”

At the same time, the group welcomed into the Lima Group Guaido’s “legitimate government of Venezuela” and vowed to “recognize and work with” his representatives in their respective countries.

At a closing press conference, Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland said 34 countries have so far recognized Guaido as Venezuela’s interim leader until new elections are held.

She pressed the entire international community to join them, and to also freeze the assets of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s “dictatorial regime.”

Those monies should be placed in the hands of the transition government, she said.

Pressed about possible military intervention in Venezuela, Freeland was unequivocal — it is not an option.

“This is a process led by the people of Venezuela in their very brave quest to return their country themselves to democracy in accordance with their own constitution,” she said.

Peruvian Minister of Foreign Affairs Nestor Popolizio echoed those comments, saying: “We would not consider the use of force.”

Two women using press credentials to access the event briefly interrupted, unfurling a banner and chanting “Hands off Venezuela” before being escorted away by security.

A smiling Freeland said protesting was a right guaranteed by the constitution in Canada, one that “I am sad to say political protesters in Venezuela do not [have].”

Earlier, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau pledged C$53 million (US$40 million) in humanitarian aid for Venezuelans amid the deepening crisis.

The bulk of the funds is set to go to “trusted partners” and neighboring countries to help them support 3 million refugees that have fled Venezuela, he said.

Guaido has accused the military — controlled by Maduro — of planning to divert international humanitarian aid headed for the country.

“We have received information, from the circle close to the high command, who are no longer evaluating if they let it enter or not, but how they will steal it from us,” Guaido told reporters in Caracas.

“They are going to hijack it to distribute it through the CLAP,” he said, referring to the government’s program to distribute subsidized food boxes to its supporters.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and European External Action Service Secretary-General Helga Schmid also participated by videoconference in the Ottawa talks.

Guaido addressed the gathering in a video message, saying he looked forward to having “free and fair elections as soon as possible in order to restore democracy to Venezuela.”

Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergei Lavrov yesterday said that the crisis in Venezuela could only be solved by getting the authorities and the opposition to talk to each other, the RIA news agency reported.

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