Venezuela crisis: What it could mean for Canada
Cillian O'Brien, with files from The Canadian Press
Published Friday, January 25, 2019 12:34PM EST
Venezuela’s economic crisis could be Canada’s gain as both countries’ oil companies compete to supply the U.S. with crude oil.
More than three million Venezuelans have fled their country in recent years, against a backdrop of political violence and increasing struggles to obtain basics such as food and health care.
In a report released Thursday called "Caracas Crisis, Canadian Crude," Washington-based research firm ClearView Energy Partners forecasts scenarios in the event of a collapse in the South American country. The report’s authors estimate that Alberta could supply enough oil, if it continued production at 2018 levels, to replace two-thirds of the Venezuelan supply to the U.S. Gulf Coast.
But Canada would be limited in its response because of a lack of pipeline capacity, according to the report.
Provincially mandated oil production cuts came into force in Alberta in the new year, due to a glut in supply. Alberta Premier Rachel Notley said the cuts will remain in place until the 35 million barrels of oil in storage are shipped to market.
A senior White House official, asked by reporters on Thursday whether the U.S. might impose an oil embargo on Venezuela, responded that the U.S. is considering all options when it comes to sanctions on the regime.
Meanwhile, Canada’s support for Juan Guaido, an opposition leader who has declared himself president in Venezuela, gives credibility to the Trump administration’s move to back him, a Latin American politics expert says.
Venezuela President Nicolas Maduro has been increasingly accused of undemocratic behaviour by his opponents, and has presided over skyrocketing inflation and a collapsing economy.
Canada, and many other western countries, recognized Venezuela’s opposition leader Juan Guaido as the rightful president on Wednesday, the same day he was symbolically sworn in as interim president, in a ceremony before tens of thousands of cheering supporters.
Meanwhile, Russia, China, Iran, Syria, Cuba and Turkey have voiced their backing for Maduro's government.
“Since Trump is a very polarizing figure, Canada gives what’s happening more credibility because of its own common sense, its more stable policies and the consistency of Canada’s role as a supporter of democratic processes,” McGill University Professor Philip Oxhorn told CTV’s Your Morning on Friday.
“The key is unified action. It’s really important that the democratic international support for a change in Venezuela really get their act together, be consistent and make it very clear that invasion, military means, is not going to happen.”
Venezuela is Canada's third largest export market in South America, after Brazil and Chile.
In the coming weeks, Canada is set to host the Lima Group of nations, comprised of 12 countries from the Americas determined to help end the crisis in Venezuela.
Established in August 2017, in Lima, Peru, the group's meetings have included representatives from Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Peru and Saint Lucia.
Canada, which has imposed three rounds of sanctions against Maduro's government, emphasizes the value of playing a leading role in the Lima Group.
Oxhorn said if the Venezuelan military were to drop its support for Maduro that may create a path to peaceful change.
A defiant Maduro recalled Venezuelan diplomats from the U.S. and closed the embassy there on Thursday. That move came a day after he ordered all U.S. diplomats out of Venezuela by the weekend, in response to President Trump supporting Guaido’s presidential claim.
Canada closed its embassy in Caracas for the day Thursday and said it would assess whether to open it day-to-day, based on the degree of upheaval.
Global Affairs Canada is advising people to avoid non-essential travel to Venezuela due to the high level of violent crime, the unstable political and economic situations, and shortages of medication, food and water.
In a video addressing the military earlier this week, Guaido said the constitution required them to disavow Maduro after his re-election in May 2018, because his main opponents were banned from running.
Guaido said, in the event Maduro steps down, he would consider granting him amnesty.
---- With files from The Canadian Press