Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

"Those who believe Canada should support a rules-based international order rather than the US empire, must continue to press Ottawa," writes Mugyenyi. (Photo: Creative Touch Imaging Ltd./NurPhoto via Getty Images)

"Those who believe Canada should support a rules-based international order rather than the US empire, must continue to press Ottawa," writes Mugyenyi. (Photo: Creative Touch Imaging Ltd./NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Venezuela’s Foreign Minister Slams Canadian Actions

In his thorough critique, Jorge Arreaza detailed the Trudeau government’s support for Donald Trump’s aggression against Venezuela.

Bianca Mugyenyi

In what may be the most forthright criticism ever leveled by a Foreign Minister of another country against Canada, Jorge Arreaza recently spent an hour detailing Ottawa’s bid to overthrow his government. 

“Under the guise of defending human rights, they began to intervene in our internal affairs,” Arreaza said during an online talk organized by the Canadian Foreign Policy Institute. The Venezuelan Foreign Minister claimed Canada leads the anti-Maduro Lima Group of countries on behalf of Washington. The “real orders are given by Canada but especially from US,” he explained. Arreaza also criticized the Liberal government’s role in building support for self-proclaimed president Juan Guaidó. He named Canada as “the only country that forbid Venezuelans from voting” in its diplomatic posts in the 2018 presidential election.

Venezuela’s Foreign Minister devoted a significant portion of his talk to detailing the economic and social damage caused by US and Canadian sanctions. He quoted The Art of Sanctions by former US State Department advisor, Richard Nephew, explaining the objective of these coercive measures is to cause “pain” until a government succumbs to Washington’s whims. 

Canada has imposed four rounds of sanctions on Venezuelan officials, including on Arreaza. Illustrating one impact of these measures, Arreaza noted that a Venezuelan youth sports team had been blocked from competing in Canada.

Canada is at the “vanguard of aggression against Venezuela,” said Arreaza. “They want to create the conditions to be able to attack Venezuela, to invade Venezuela, because they want to take control of our country and its wealth, its natural resources. Of course, they want to eliminate the ideology of our government, of our people.”

Arreaza directly addressed Foreign Minister François-Philippe Champagne, offering to meet in Mexico or elsewhere to discuss bilateral relations. He also called on Canadians to push their government to normalize relations with Venezuela.

Arreaza argued that Trump’s rise and the appointment of Chrystia Freeland as Foreign Minister precipitated a shift in Canadian policy. He suggested the Liberals may have calculated that aligning with Trump on Venezuela was a relatively inexpensive way of papering over differences on other issues. 

A March 2017 cable from the US embassy in Ottawa to the State Department entitled “Canada Adopts ‘America First’ Foreign Policy” gives credence to this view. Dispatched a few weeks after Freeland was appointed Foreign Minister, the memo uncovered through a Freedom of Information request notes Trudeau would be “Prioritizing U.S. Relations, ASAP.” It also stated that Trudeau promoted Freeland “in large part because of her strong U.S. contacts.”

Despite pointed criticisms, Arreaza veered into mythologizing Canadian foreign policy history in Latin America. He exaggerated the scope of the recent shift in Canada’s direction, as well as celebrating Justin Trudeau’s father Pierre, who supported the 1973 coup against Salvador Allende. 

The reality is there has been open conflict between Ottawa and Caracas for many years. The Chretien government failed to criticize the April 2002 overthrow of Hugo Chavez until he was returned to office and when the Harper government prorogued parliament in 2009 Conservative cabinet minister Peter Kent visited Venezuelan opposition figures, telling the media “democratic space within Venezuela has been shrinking and in this election year, Canada is very concerned about the rights of all Venezuelans to participate in the democratic process.” Venezuela’s Ambassador to the Organization of American States, Roy Chaderton Matos, responded by saying Ottawa supported “coup plotters” and “destabilizers” in Venezuela. “I am talking of a Canada governed by an ultra right that closed its Parliament for various months to (evade) an investigation over the violation of human rights—I am talking about torture and assassinations—by its soldiers in Afghanistan.”

Leaving aside Canadian foreign policy history, Arreaza’s presentation was powerful. There is often little substance to politicians’ speeches, and irrespective of whether one agrees with the Venezuelan government’s position, Arreaza offered a thorough critique.

It was also a major political event. With the co-founder of Pink Floyd, Roger Waters, introducing the talk and sharing it with his 2.5 million Facebook and Twitter followers, tens of thousands heard about it beforehand. Thousands of Canadians have watched the event and it was live-streamed on the Venezuelan Foreign Ministry’s Twitter account and shared widely by Venezuelan diplomats around the world.

Considering the magnitude of the event the media turnout should have been better. Le Journal de MontréalSputnikThe Canada FilesCaribbean News Globaland Radio Canada International Spanish published sympathetic stories while the National Post dismissively summarized the talk’s theme as “blame Canada”. The National Post also published a follow-up piece quoting Guaidó’s representative to Canada, Orlando Viera-Blanco, dismissing Arreaza’s criticism. CBC, Globe and Mail, Canadian Press, La Presse and numerous other outlets were contacted, but failed to cover it.

There is a growing appetite to challenge Canadian policy in the aftermath of Canada’s second consecutive defeat for a United Nations Security Council seat. At a recent talk on Canada’s role in Bolivia, for instance, NDP MP Matthew Green declared “we ought not be a part of a pseudo-imperialist group like the Lima Group” while a ‘Twitter rally’ challenging Canadian policy during the Arreaza talk was amplified by MPs Elizabeth May and Leah Gazan as well as Romeo Saganash, Judy Rebick and Linda McQuaig. 

 A recently released open letter addressed to the Prime Minister poses the question, “Why is Canada involved in efforts to overthrow Venezuela’s UN recognized government, a clear violation of the principle of non-intervention in other country’s internal affairs?”  

The question on Venezuela is part of a broader call for a “fundamental reassessment of Canadian foreign policy,” and has been signed by Canadian figures such as David Suzuki, Naomi Klein, Stephen Lewis as well as sitting MPs Leah Gazan, Paul Manly, Alexandre Boulerice, and Niki Ashton. It is also supported by nearly 50 groups across the country including Greenpeace Canada, and Idle No More. 

The Trudeau government’s support for Donald Trump’s aggression against Venezuela is getting harder to sustain in the face of growing public pressure. Those who believe Canada should support a rules-based international order rather than the US empire, must continue to press Ottawa.

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.
Bianca Mugyenyi

Bianca Mugyenyi

Bianca Mugyenyi is an author and former co-executive director of The Leap. She currently coordinates the Canadian Foreign Policy Institute. She is the co-author with Yves Engler of Stop Signs: Cars and Capitalism on the Road to Economic, Social and Environmental Decay.

This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.

Because of people like you, another world is possible. There are many battles to be won, but we will battle them together—all of us. Common Dreams is not your normal news site. We don't survive on clicks. We don't want advertising dollars. We want the world to be a better place. But we can't do it alone. It doesn't work that way. We need you. If you can help today—because every gift of every size matters—please do. Without Your Support We Simply Don't Exist.

'Sickening Betrayal': Panel Finds 83 Cases of Alleged Abuse During WHO's Ebola Work in Congo

"This is the biggest finding of sexual abuse perpetrated during a single U.N. initiative in one area or one country during the time-bound period of a U.N. response effort," said one campaigner.

Jessica Corbett ·

Activists Confront Pelosi at Fundraiser, Demanding She 'Hold the Line' on $3.5 Trillion Package

"Backtracking on this reconciliation bill means people will continue to die at the hands of the climate crisis," said one Sunrise Movement activist.

Brett Wilkins ·

Frustrated Tribal Leaders Urge Biden to Immediately Restore Bears Ears Monument

"We have tried to be patient and respectful as we await your decision on restoration. However, the longer action is not taken, real harm, much permanent, is occurring on this sacred landscape."

Brett Wilkins ·

Senate Urged to 'Finish the Job' After House Votes to End Cocaine Sentencing Disparity

"For 35 years, the sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine, based on neither evidence nor science, has resulted in higher sentences that are disproportionately borne by Black families and communities," said an ACLU attorney.

Julia Conley ·

Sanders Demands House Dems Vote Down Bipartisan Bill if Reconciliation Package Not Secured

"Physical infrastructure is important," said Sen. Bernie Sanders, "but the needs of working families and combating climate change is more important."

Kenny Stancil ·

Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.

Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo