Canada closes embassy in Venezuela

Canada announced Sunday that it has temporarily closed its embassy in Venezuela, blaming President Nicolas Maduro for limiting its abilities to function in the destabilized country.

Canada’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland announced the closure in a statement, saying it was due to Canadian diplomats being unable to have their visas renewed, which were set to expire at the end of the month, under Maduro’s administration.

“Therefore, we are left with no choice but to temporarily suspend our operations at the Embassy of Canada to Venezuela, effective immediately,” she said.

Canada will also be “evaluating the status” of Venezuelan diplomats appointed by Maduro’s regime to Canada, she said.

Canada is one of 14 mostly Latin American nations of the Lima Group that has voiced strong opposition against Maduro’s re-election last year, which has deemed illegitimate.

Since then, the country has been thrown into political and social chaos. National Assembly leader Juan Guiado named himself interim president on Jan. 10, igniting a fight over the helm of Venezuela.

Maduro has fought to maintain his power despite over 50 countries backing Guiado as Venezuela’s rightful ruler.

“As Venezuela slides deeper into dictatorship, and as Venezuelans continue to suffer at the hands of the illegitimate Maduro regime, the regime has taken steps to limit the ability of foreign embassies to function in Venezuela, particularly those advocating for the restoration of democracy in Venezuela,” she said.

Canada said that even though it is temporarily suspending its services it will continue to fight for Venezuelan democracy.

“Canada, together with its partners in the Lima Group and the international community, will continue to stand up for the rights of the Venezuelan people and for a full return to democracy in Venezuela,” she said.

Canadians in Venezuela who need assistance can contact its embassy in Bogota, Colombia, the nation’s travel advisory website said.

The United States pulled its remaining embassy staff March 12, saying the decision “reflects the deteriorating situation in Venezuela.”

By Darryl Coote