Venezuela accuses Canada of supporting Trump's 'war adventure'


Caracas (AFP)

Venezuela accused Canada of supporting US President Donald Trump's "war adventure" Monday after Ottawa announced new sanctions on top officials in President Nicolas Maduro's government.

In a statement, Venezuela's foreign ministry said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau "has invalidated Canada as a reliable actor in dialogue."

Earlier Monday, Canada announced new sanctions against 43 members of Maduro's government, including Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza, whom it holds "responsible for the deteriorating situation" in the crisis-wracked South American country.

The sanctions included a freeze on the individuals' assets and a ban on them conducting business with Canada, which previously sanctioned another 70 top government officials.

Caracas "categorically" opposed the new sanctions and accused Ottawa of "removing its mask."

"It's alliance with war criminals that have declared their intention to destroy the Venezuelan economy to inflict suffering on the people and loot the country's riches demonstrates the hypocritical attitude of the Ottawa government in its pretentious concern for human rights," said the foreign ministry.

The US has led the way in imposing sanctions on the Maduro regime, including state oil firm PDVSA.

Canada is part of the Lima Group of 14 mostly Latin American countries that met in Santiago earlier and called on the United Nations to "take action" to prevent an escalation of Venezuela's humanitarian crisis.

It urged United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, the General Assembly and the Security Council to "take measures to avoid the progressive deterioration of peace and security, and to provide urgent humanitarian aid to the population of migrants coming from Venezuela."

- Canada taking action -

Canada's Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland recalled how the Lima Group demanded during a meeting in Ottawa on February 4, that the international community take action against the Maduro regime.

"Today, Canada is taking that action by holding 43 more people accountable for their roles in worsening the situation in Venezuela."

The Lima Group was created in 2017 to try to find a solution to Venezuela's economic meltdown.

More than four years of recession have left Venezuela in crisis, with the country's poorest residents suffering from shortages of basic necessities such as food and medicine, even though the South American country sits on the world's largest proven oil reserves.

Most Lima Group members refused to recognize Maduro's second term, which began on January 10, due to alleged fraud during his reelection last year.

The speaker of the National Assembly, Juan Guaido, launched a challenge to Maduro's authority in January and has since been backed by more than 50 countries, led by the United States, that recognize him as Venezuela's interim president.

Guaido wants to force Maduro, whose rule he deems to be illegitimate, from office and set up a transitional government ahead of new elections.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo ended a whistlestop tour of South America on Sunday by visiting Colombia's border with Venezuela.

There, he urged Maduro to reopen the border to allow in desperately-needed humanitarian aid that has been stockpiled in the Colombian town of Cucuta for two months now.

More than 2.7 million Venezuelans have fled the country since 2015, according to the UN, while the International Monetary Fund says the country's inflation will reach a staggering 10 million percent this year.

Venezuelans have been hit by repeated electricity blackouts in recent weeks while unemployment is over 44 percent.