Foreign Affairs Minister François-Philippe Champagne and a group of foreign ministers from the Western Hemisphere are urging the international community to help find a solution to the Venezuela crisis, which has caused millions of people to flee the country.
Mr. Champagne hosted a meeting in Gatineau of the Lima Group, an alliance of countries working on finding a peaceful resolution to the humanitarian and economic crisis in Venezuela.
Facing widespread shortages of food and medicine, about 4.5 million refugees and migrants have fled Venezuela since last October, with no prospects of returning in the near future, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). It is the largest displacement of people in the recent history of Latin America and the Caribbean.
Canada recognizes Juan Guaido as the interim leader of Venezuela, as Nicolas Maduro continues to refuse to cede power.
Last year, when the Lima Group met, it had a specific call: to urge the Venezuelan military to back the country’s opposition leader, Mr. Guaido. That didn’t happen, and one year later, the plea is directed toward the larger international community.
“We are issuing an appeal to all countries who share our desire to see a return to democracy,” Mr. Champagne said Thursday.
“We need to speak with a single voice, a unified voice, as international partners to find new approaches to end the political, humanitarian and economic crisis in line with the desire of the Venezuelan people and interim president Juan Guaido.”
Mr. Champagne, standing beside Peru’s Foreign Minister Gustavo Meza-Cuadra, said three words emerged in Thursday’s meeting: unity, urgency and democracy.
“We talk about urgency because time is of the essence. We are facing a humanitarian crisis and an environmental crisis of historic proportion,” he said.
Mr. Meza-Cuadra said the group is sending a “strong message of unity," saying that the only way for democracy to return to the country is through free and fair presidential elections.
Although Mr. Champagne stressed the group’s support for Mr. Guaido and the Venezuelan people, he would not say whether there are any plans to expel the remaining Maduro-appointed diplomats from Ottawa.
After declaring himself interim president last February, Mr. Guaido named Orlando Viera-Blanco as his envoy to Canada.
Mr. Viera-Blanco told The Globe and Mail this week that he is not working out of the Venezuelan embassy and is instead working from his condo, to avoid any potential confrontations with Maduro-appointed diplomats, who are providing consular services to Venezuelans in Canada.
Mr. Champagne would not say whether Mr. Guaido has asked Ottawa to expel the diplomats, or if it is something his government is considering.
“We will consider things as they come. … I go step by step,” he said.
“We are together on this stage to send a very clear, powerful and strong message to the international community, to obviously the Maduro regime, hopefully they’re watching us so they can see that we have been, we are, more united than we have ever been in making sure that we work together to provide a peaceful transition to democracy.”