Your government, which claims to value human rights, threatens the human rights of Venezuelans by advancing its own selfish interests.
No 2441 Posted by fw, February 26, 2019
“The Canadian Government, which purports to value human rights and the will of the people, as expressed through democratic institutions, has shown – in Venezuela – how quickly it will abandon these principles to advance its own interests, regardless of the suffering caused. Here are 7 reasons why I am ashamed of the actions of my government.” —Helga Wintal
Helga Wintal, B.A. (Hon.), LL.B., a retired public servant with extensive experience in federal, provincial and county governments, was sufficiently incensed by Ottawa’s overt promotion of regime change in Venezuela, to write to the Prime Minister.
Here are Helga’s 7 reasons she opposes Ottawa’s intervention, the full text of which are provide below in a copy of her letter:
The full text of Helga’s letter follows.
Dear Prime Minister Trudeau: Feb. 26, 2019
RE: Government Support for Regime Change in Venezuela
The Canadian Government, which purports to value human rights and the will of the people, as expressed through democratic institutions, has shown – in Venezuela – how quickly it will abandon these principles to advance its own interests, regardless of the suffering caused. Here are 7 reasons why I am ashamed of the actions of my government:
1/ In official statements, Maduro is described as a dictator, and his election in 2018 as “illegitimate and anti-democratic” despite impartial reports to the contrary. In fact, the elections were found to be free and fair by four international independent monitoring missions. Among the candidates running were two from opposition parties. If some opposition parties – including Guaidó’s party – refused to field candidates and boycotted the election, that was a choice freely made, and cannot serve as a basis for subsequently disputing the election.
2/ Juan Guaidó’s self-appointment as interim President of Venezuela on Jan. 23, 2019 is immediately recognized by Canada as legitimate although it was contrary to the Constitution. How can Canada express concern about possible foreign interference in its own upcoming elections while pursuing such blatant interference in Venezuela’s electoral process? Furthermore, it is supporting an unconstitutional act which amounts to an attempted coup. Even if Guaidó, whose party holds 14 out of 167 seats in the National Assembly, were right in his assertion that the Presidency is vacant – which it is not – the Constitution provides for the appointment of the Vice President as interim President, not the President of the National Assembly, for a vacancy within the first four years of the President’s mandate. There is even a precedent created by President Chavez’ death, when the Vice-President became interim President and called new elections.
3/ Maduro’s call for elections for a National Constitutional Assembly to rewrite the Venezuelan Constitution is described by your government as illegitimate, even though it is provided for under the Constitution. Furthermore, the rationale supplied is that “Venezuelans rightfully want to hold onto the fundamentals enshrined in their 1999 Constitution”. In fact, it is just these fundamentals that Maduro is seeking to protect, by enshrining Venezuela’s social programs and the new forms of popular and participatory democracy in the Constitution. President Maduro clearly has authority to proceed, as Article 348 of the Constitution provides that “The initiative for calling a National Constituent Assembly may emanate from the President of the Republic sitting with the Cabinet of Ministers,” and Article 349 goes on to state that “The existing constituted authorities shall not be permitted to obstruct the Constituent Assembly in any way.”
4/ Imposing sanctions on Venezuela without considering the impact on the people. In March 2018, the United Nations Human Rights Council condemned the economic sanctions the US, Canada and EU adopted against Venezuela, since economic sanctions disproportionately affect the poor and most vulnerable classes and threaten the realization of human rights. The most recent US sanctions represent a loss to the Maduro government of about US$11bn for the rest of the year, plus the loss of US$7 billion in seized state oil assets in the US – which is now unavailable to purchase food, vital supplies and medicine.
5/ Refusing to recognize that USAID packages are a PR Stunt designed to incite violent clashes and directing its own aid through similarly unacceptable channels. Of course, the Maduro government will not accept aid requested by an upstart interim President from the very country that supports him and is, to a great extent, responsible for Venezuela’s economic catastrophe through its punitive sanctions. The US government, abetted by Canada, was clearly hoping to bolster the image of Guaidó and precipitate violent clashes, while disregarding warnings from the International Red Cross and United Nations to explicitly notengage in these types of PR stunts. Although the Maduro government had requested, and was receiving, UN emergency aid and the Red Cross had long been working with local authorities to deliver relief, the US chose not to go through these acceptable and established delivery channels. As for Canada, you have indicated that the $53 million in promised aid for Venezuela will go to “trusted partners in neighboring countries to help them support Venezuela and Venezuelans.” If this refers to members of the Lima Group, clearly the aid will be unacceptable to Maduro. So why not deliver through the UN or the Red Cross, if you are truly concerned about the aid reaching the most vulnerable Venezuelans?
6/ Using the “Lima Group” to maintain pressure on the Maduro Government since August 8, 2017. Given the membership of this ad-hoc, right-leaning group, it is hard to believe that they would be so concerned about democracy and human rights. For example, the UN Commissioner for Human Rights reported that 105 human rights defenders were killed in Colombia in the past year. As for Brazil, the latest Amnesty International Country report states that up to 200 different proposals for constitutional amendments and changes to other legislation threatened a range of human rights, such as criminalizing social protests, reducing labour rights and access to social security. In addition, 62 human rights defenders were reported to have been killed between January and September alone. As for Honduras and Guatemala, they are the main source of the migrants currently trapped at the US-Mexico border, fleeing persecution, poverty and violence. Need I go on? In opposition to this, people in 150 cities around the world, including Ottawa and major US cities, showed that they understood the real motives propelling these countries by demonstrating on Saturday Feb. 23 against any form of foreign interference in Venezuela.
7/ Obfuscating the real motives for the interest in Venezuela with platitudes about democracy and human rights. Clearly, the Canadian government has a special interest in Venezuela, or it would not have put out 71 Ministerial Communications, Statements and Declarations between June 1, 2016 and Feb. 14, 2019 (all available on-line) which criticize the Maduro regime and favour regime change. Could Ottawa’s interest be somehow linked to Venezuela’s large oil reserves as well as its significant gold deposits, now nationalized and therefore off limits to development by foreign companies? Considering that several Canadian mining companies- Crystallex, Vanessa Ventures, Gold Reserve Inc. and Rusoro Mining – were affected by this nationalization and that two of them won large, as yet unpaid, settlements under the Canada-Venezuela Investment treaty (Rusoro won $1 billion and Crystallex won $1.2 billion in 2016), could Minister Freeland’s conversations with Juan Guaidó have secured promises of payment from seized assets in the US in exchange for support? As the Wall Street Journal reported, in a January 31 article, Guaidó “said he would sell state assets and invite private investment in the energy industry”. Under Guaidó, Venezuela would be open for business and ripe for exploitation.
In conclusion, the purpose of this letter is not to express support for Nicolás Maduro or any particular political party in Venezuela. Rather, I am defending the principle that Venezuela is a sovereign nation, with a right to self-determination, and that its current economic and political crisis should be resolved peacefully by the people of Venezuela, without economic or military coercion by external powers.
Helga Wintal, B.A. (Hon.), LL.B.
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