On May 20, 2018, a Canadian delegation observed the Venezuelan presidential election. The delegation included members of Unifor, the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation, the Canadian Union of Postal Workers, The United Church, Common Frontiers, and Rabble.ca. The delegation issued its report on the election in June of 2018, which paints a picture of a fair, free election that resulted in the victory of Nicolas Maduro as President of Venezuela.
An excerpt from the Canadian delegation’s report reads as follows:
Members were on the ground from May 14-22 and visited various communities, had meetings with human rights groups, labour leaders, victims of the violence of the Guarimbas, elected officials, constitutional experts and other Venezuelans. Our delegation visited about half a dozen polling stations across Caracas in El 23 de Enero, Santa Teresa, La Guaira y El Valle.
At these polling stations, we witnessed people lined up outside and sitting inside waiting to vote –always in an orderly manner. Voters had access to unobstructed voting in total secrecy and representatives of opposition parties were present at all polling centers and tables we visited. We spoke to both government and opposition supporters and none indicated any real issues with the voting process.
In short, the electoral process in Venezuela during the 2018 presidential election was fully democratic. So were the previous elections in Venezuela, contrary to the reports issued by Washington, its allies and corporate media circles, notwithstanding the lies propagated about Venezuela by our ‘public’ broadcaster, the CBC. Indeed, in 2012 former President of the United States Jimmy Carter called the Venezuelan electoral system “the best in the world.”
The Canadian delegation – having been involved as observers in the elections of five different countries, notably in Haiti (1990), South Africa (1994), Bolivia (2009), Honduras (2013) and Venezuela (2004 and 2010) – addressed concerns by the Venezuelan opposition and stated the following in the introduction to their report:
In this report we summarize many complaints by the opposition parties regarding the voting process but we did not witness any of the allegations put forward by the opposition. Our delegation was impressed by the electoral process and felt confident that the results of the elections represent the will of the majority of Venezuelans who voted. (4)
By Canadian standards, then, the presidential election in Venezuela in 2018 was a fair and democratic one. The leader of the opposition in Venezuela in 2018 was Henri Falcón. Falcón lost by more than 4 million votes, well behind Maduro. In fact, Falcón lost by more than 4 million votes. After he lost, Falcón insisted on a new election even though the election had been fully democratic. In fact, had there been a subsequent new election, Falcón would have likely lost that one as well. Juan Guaidó did not even run in the 2018 election in Venezuela. His name didn’t even come up in any poll.
Yet, on February 1 2019, an article was published in Reuters stating that European Union governments had announced that they would move to “recognize Juan Guaidó as Venezuela’s interim president.” The same article went on to state that “… the United States, Canada and several Latin American nations, (which) argue Maduro stole his second-term election..”
At this point we have to ask ourselves: how could Maduro steal an election from Guaidó when he did not even run in the 2018 election? The answer is that the election was not stolen, but won by Maduro ‘fair and square’ as indicated in the Canadian observers’ report.
This attack on Venezuelan democracy follows several decades’ efforts to topple socialist governments in Venezuela to take control of Venezuela’s ample oil and gas reserves. Venezuela has the largest reserves of oil in the world. It nationalized its natural gas resources in 1971 and nationalized its oil industry in 1976. That is unacceptable to Western imperialist governments, multinationals, and Deep State oligarchs. Enter the Lima Group.
The Lima Group is an alliance of Canada’s right-wing Liberal government and other right-wing governments in Latin America created in 2017 to deal with the ‘crisis’ in Venezuela and to ‘restore its democracy’. In truth it is nothing more than a tool meant to undermine Venezuelan democracy in the name of American ‘democracy.’ At the behest of Washington, of course.
Chrystia Freeland – then Canada’s Minister of Foreign Affairs – played a key role in the creation of the Lima Group and with it the push for ‘regime change’ in Venezuela. A U.S. State Department document went so far as to state: “Canada Adopts ‘America First’ Foreign Policy.”
An Associated Press article from January 25, 2019 entitled, “Anti-Maduro coalition grew from secret talks,” quoting an anonymous Canadian official, pointed to the fact that Chrystia Freeland had played a ‘key role’ in organizing Juan Guaido’s so-called opposition forces and that Freeland “spoke to Guaido the night before Maduro’s swearing-in ceremony to offer her government’s support should he confront the socialist leader…” This of course was done in the name of ‘democracy’ and the ‘rule-of-law.’
Ben Roswell, a close colleague of Freeland and former Canadian ambassador to Venezuela, worked hand-in-hand with Freeland in setting up the would-be coup d’état (which ultimately failed) against the elected government of Nicolas Maduro. Roswell described his most important achievement as Ambassador to Venezuela as “having advanced ‘direct democracy’ through social media tech and embassy events” and upon leaving his post on July 27, 2017 tweeted: “I don’t think they (anti-Maduro forces) have anything to worry about because Minister Freeland has Venezuela way at the top of her priority list.”
In addition to imposing brutal sanctions on Venezuela, helping the US maintain a crippling economic blockade of the country, the Trudeau government has also sanctioned Nicaragua, whose democratically elected socialist government survived a violent right-wing onslaught in 2018. Freeland has echoed the Trump administration’s harsh rhetoric against Nicaragua’s Sandinista government. Canada’s new Minister of Foreign Affairs, François-Philippe Champagne follows in Freeland’s footsteps. He is a harbinger of regime change where the West’s imperialism calls for it.
What also drives the desperate attempt to stage a coup d’état in Venezuela derives from the United States’ undeclared war against China which is being played out in various parts of the globe, most notably in the South China Sea. As I wrote in a previous Canada Files article:
“What also feeds the US oligarchs’ need for the Lima Group is the presence of China in Latin America and the Caribbean. China’s involvement in Latin America generally concerns the extraction of natural resources and building of infrastructure such as dams and hydroelectric power plants in the Amazon and also in Patagonia, but also includes building much needed infrastructure such as railway lines in Peru and Venezuela.“
China has a long-term plan for strengthening economic ties with Latin America that promises to be more in the interests of Latin American countries than U.S domination on behalf of American multinationals. It is known as the Belt and Road Initiative. It “envisages the strengthening of infrastructure, trade and investment between the Asian giant and approximately 65 countries, comprising 62 per cent of the world’s population and 75 per cent of the world’s known energy reserves.”
In 2018 during the meeting of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) in Santiago, Chile, China “formally invited Latin America to participate in the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).”
Venezuela is China’s strategic ally in Latin America. In addition to Venezuela, Panama, Brazil, Mexico, Bolivia, Antigua and Barbuda, Costa Rica, Chile and Guyana have also signed trade agreements.
The ongoing attempt at a coup d’état in Venezuela can only be understood in the larger context of Washington’s attempt to corral China’s growing global influence and the reach of its economic projects such as BRICS and the Belt and Road Initiative. The threat to U.S. dominance is clear.
China’s presence in Latin America is a direct challenge to US hegemony in the region. It’s a slap at the United States’ long-held Monroe Doctrine (1823) which has served as a warning to the outside world that the US considers itself Hegemon in the geographical areas surrounding it. Through the Monroe Doctrine, Washington views Latin America as its backyard. China has made it clear that it is in that backyard to stay.
Given that Canada is no more than a satellite of the American Empire there is no surprise that, despite the fact that Juan Guaidó is now entirely redundant, the Trudeau government continues in its attempt to undermine the legitimate government of Venezuela by any means it can. Washington will undoubtedly find another puppet to replace Guaidó and it goes without saying that the Trudeau government will immediately endorse him or her. So much for Trudeau’s, Freeland’s and Champagne’s cynical and hypocritical opining about ‘democracy and the rule-of-law.’
On July 5, 2020 Canada’s present Minister of Foreign Affairs, Champagne issued a statement on Canada’s Global Affairs web site, that “Canada reaffirms its unwavering support to the Venezuelan people as they fight to restore their democratic and human rights” and that “Canada continues to work within the family of democracies in the Americas and with partners around the world to end the suffering in Venezuela and bring a peaceful transition to democracy, which follows the Venezuelan constitution and includes free and fair elections.”
The irony and hypocrisy of the statement should be clear to all. It is quite simply the unstated avowal that the Trudeau government has no independent foreign policy of which to speak, that its foreign policy is shaped in foreign capitals, be it vis-a-vis Venezuela, Cuba, Bolivia, Nicaragua, Honduras, Haiti, Palestine, Iran, Syria, China or Russia. How could that not be the case where a country’s economy is entirely integrated into that of a far more powerful neighboring country whose dictates in both economic and foreign policy are to be followed to the letter? In effect, the real Minister of Foreign Affairs for Canada is Mike Pompeo, who also happens to be the U.S. Secretary of State.
Canada’s sovereignty? Pure myth!
Bruce Katz is a retired language teacher and a founding member and current co-president of Palestinian and Jewish Unity (PAJU), a Montreal-based pro-Palestinian solidarity organization founded in November of 2000.