Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Support Quality Journalism.
The Globe and Mail
First Access to Latest
Investment News
Collection of curated
e-books and guides
Inform your decisions via
Globe Investor Tools
per week
for first 24 weeks

Enjoy unlimited digital access
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Get full access to
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](,dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){window.requestAnimationFrame(function() {var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))});}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1); // via darwin-bg var slideIndex = 0; carousel(); function carousel() { var i; var x = document.getElementsByClassName("subs_valueprop"); for (i = 0; i < x.length; i++) { x[i].style.display = "none"; } slideIndex++; if (slideIndex> x.length) { slideIndex = 1; } x[slideIndex - 1].style.display = "block"; setTimeout(carousel, 2500); } //

Venezuela is one place where Canada has done the right thing.

When Venezuelans began to rise against their increasingly dictatorial president, Nicolas Maduro, Ottawa took the considerable risk of providing outspoken support to the democratic opposition.

In 2017, Canada played a key role in organizing the Lima Group – a bloc of 14 Latin American and Caribbean countries that has pressed for the restoration of democracy and the end of atrocities in Caracas – and in urging that group to isolate and sanction the Maduro regime.

Story continues below advertisement

When Mr. Maduro’s dictatorship provoked a grotesque humanitarian crisis, with Venezuelans starving and millions of refugees flooding neighbouring countries, Canada was a leader in providing material aid and behind-the-scenes backing to the elected opposition. And on Jan. 23, when Venezuela’s fairly elected legislature announced that under the terms of their constitution, their representative, Juan Guaido, had become the country’s legitimate leader, the federal government led the way in recognizing him.

But Venezuela is also a place where Canada’s efforts could be rendered useless simply because one man walked into the room, late to the party, and began shouting his support.

The abrupt entry of Donald Trump and his administration into Venezuela’s hopeful moment has an effect similar to Werner Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle, in which the very act of observing changes the nature of the thing being observed. Washington’s ham-fisted embrace of Mr. Guaido and his movement has made Venezuela’s hopeful, progressive moment – and the growing circle of democratic countries that helped bring that moment about – look to many observers like something else entirely.

Too many figures who ought to know better, including MPs in Canada and Britain, now seem to believe that this is yet another case of Washington pushing a U.S.-friendly right-wing strongman into power against the will of a poor country’s people – something that certainly has occurred more than a few times in history.

This time, nothing could be further from the truth.

Mr. Guaido, 35, is a social democrat, with a lifelong history of community work on the democratic left. He is a member of Socialist International, whose key members include Britain’s Labour Party, the Democratic Socialists of America – the organization behind Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez – and included Canada’s New Democrats until 2018, when the NDP decided to dissociate themselves from the word “socialist.” His political biography is a story of community organizing and progressive politics from his early student activism through to his transformative role – after things turned dark in 2017 – in organizing a nationwide network of open-air town-hall meetings to bring the voices of ordinary Venezuelans into the democratic process.

His party, Popular Will, was created by the Venezuelan democratic left in 2009 to protest the increasingly autocratic and economically destructive rule of Hugo Chavez. Venezuelan MPs felt he had betrayed their principles by smashing labour unions and nationalizing the economy and the currency, causing the middle class to collapse and poverty to soar. The party led the resistance when Mr. Maduro seized power following the death of Mr. Chavez in 2013 and imposed a de facto dictatorship.

Story continues below advertisement

This is one of the paradoxes of Venezuelan politics: It is not a country divided between left and right, but predominantly between a social-democratic, economically liberal left and an autocratic, ultranationalist left in the Soviet mould. The word “progressive” never fit Mr. Chavez; one of his first acts as president was to respond to an oil workers’ strike by firing all 19,000 employees, disbanding their union and replacing them with regime loyalists.

Nor could Mr. Guaido’s movement be called “U.S.-backed.” While Mr. Trump has periodically denounced the Maduro dictatorship in his highly selective shopping list of evil regimes, and while he has shockingly suggested a military invasion of the country on several occasions, the United States has played little role in bolstering these democratic movements. In fact, it has done them considerable damage.

As Ben Rowswell, who was Canada’s ambassador to Venezuela until 2017, wrote in this paper on Monday, Mr. Trump’s gunboat diplomacy is offensive to Canadians and anyone who understands that “foreign military intervention is a violation of popular sovereignty, not a means to uphold it.”

Worse, some of the more unsavoury figures in Mr. Trump’s circle, such as his national-security adviser John Bolton, have suggested openly that the end of Mr. Maduro might be profitable for the U.S. oil industry. Mr. Maduro could not have devised a better strategy to ensure his hold on power: Now he can claim to be the last bulwark against the Yankee invasion.

On Feb. 4, Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland will host an Ottawa meeting of the 14 Lima Group countries. It will be both a crucial effort to build support for positive change in a country that sorely needs it, and yet another effort by the rest of the world’s democracies to work around the destructive impediment currently perched in Washington.

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow the author of this article:

Follow topics related to this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

UPDATED: Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies