'Hands off': Canadians protest developments in Venezuela
CTVNews.ca Staff, with files from CTV Calgary, CTV Winnipeg and CTV Windsor
Published Sunday, February 24, 2019 10:52AM EST
Last Updated Sunday, February 24, 2019 4:36PM EST
Canadians from Calgary to Halifax took part in solidarity protests on Saturday over the crisis in Venezuela, as a U.S.-backed initiative to deliver foreign aid to the country turned deadly when troops loyal to President Nicolas Maduro fired tear gas at protesters.
The protests come one month after 35-year-old Juan Guaido declared himself Venezuela’s interim president, describing Maduro’s election last year as illegitimate. Since then, he has won the support of dozens of governments around the world, including those of Canada and the United States.
Maduro has remained defiant in the face of domestic and international pressure, securing the support of the governments of Iran and Russia, as well as the loyalty of the Venezuelan military.
But while the Canadian government, which accused Maduro of seizing power through fraudulent elections, has expressed full support for Guaido, some Canadian protesters are calling it out for what they say is an attack on Venezuela’s sovereignty.
“What is brewing, what is being organized is an actual military intervention of Venezuela,” said Margaret Villamizar, who attended a protest in Windsor, Ont. “If it doesn’t turn out to be full-scale military, what’s being called diplomacy is really an attack on Venezuela’s sovereignty.”
In Winnipeg, a small group of protesters held signs reading “No coup! Canada and U.S. hands off Venezuela.”
Ajit Singh, who attended a protest there organized by the Venezuela Peace Committee, expressed his support for Maduro.
“We are standing in solidarity with Venezuela’s right to deliver its own political and economic affairs and we are supporting its sovereign and democratically-elected government,” he said.
But at other protests, like one in Calgary, participants who draped themselves in the yellow, red and blue of the Venezuelan flag called for more help for the Venezuelan people and the entry of humanitarian aid.
Josue Ramirez, who organized the rally, said his friends and family members in the country are lacking “the basic needs to survive,” such as medicine and food.
Two people died and nearly 300 were injured on Saturday as a result of a violent confrontation between Venezuelan troops blocking aid convoys and protestors attempting to collect and transport the aid.
Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland called reports that the Maduro regime burned the aid rather than allow its entry into Venezuela “troubling” and “a violation of basic humanitarian principles and human decency.”
Canada has imposed targeted sanctions on Venezuela and provided $55 million in humanitarian assistance.
With files from The Associated Press