2017-12-26 09:26:22 UTC
Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland says the Venezuelan
ambassador to Canada and another senior diplomat are no longer welcome
in the country, biting back at Venezuela's decision to expel the top
Canadian envoy from Caracas over the weekend.
In a statement on Christmas Day, Ms. Freeland said Venezuela's
Ambassador, Wilmer Omar Barrientos Fernandez, who was recalled by
President Nicolas Maduro's regime in October, is not welcome to
return. She said Canada will also expel Venezuela's chargé d'affaires,
Angel Herrera who was in charge of the embassy in the absence of an
ambassador by declaring him persona non grata.
The decision comes after the Venezuelan government declared Canada's
chargé d'affaires in Caracas, Craig Kowalik, persona non grata on
Saturday, stripping him of his diplomatic credentials and expelling
him from the country.
Reached by The Globe and Mail on Monday, a representative from the
Venezuelan embassy in Ottawa declined to comment on Ms. Freeland's
The diplomatic tit for tat is the latest flareup in relations between
the Trudeau and Maduro governments over Venezuela's political and
Ms. Freeland said the expulsion of Mr. Kowalik is "typical of the
Maduro regime, which has consistently undermined all efforts to
restore democracy and to help the Venezuelan people."
"Canadians will not stand by as the government of Venezuela robs its
people of their fundamental democratic and human rights, and denies
them access to basic humanitarian assistance," she said.
Brazil's ambassador to Venezuela, Ruy Pereira, was also declared
persona non grata alongside Mr. Kowalik. The president of Venezuela's
national constituent assembly, Delcy Rodriguez, accused the diplomats
of meddling in the country's politics, saying Mr. Kowalik has a
history of posting "rude and vulgar" comments about Venezuela on
Twitter. A Twitter account that appears to belong to Mr. Kowalik did
not contain any tweets Monday.
Mr. Kowalik has not left Venezuela yet, according to Global Affairs
Canada, which said he has until Jan. 7 to do so. The department said
the rest of the Canadian embassy's staff will remain in Caracas.
The posting of Canada's most recent ambassador to Venezuela, Ben
Rowswell, ended in July. Ms. Freeland's office said Venezuela has not
agreed to the appointment of a new Canadian ambassador since, making
Mr. Kowalik the most senior diplomat at the embassy.
Ms. Freeland recognized the "exceptional professionalism and
dedication" of the government's staff in Venezuela and said Canada
will continue to work with its partners in the region to pressure the
"anti-democratic Maduro regime and restore the rights of the
Venezuela's descent into chaos has accelerated since March, when Mr.
Maduro attempted to strip the opposition-dominated Congress of its
powers. Protesters took to the streets, demanding that Mr. Maduro step
down and call new elections; at least 125 died in the protests and
thousands have been wounded or jailed.
Meanwhile, the country is facing triple-digit inflation and desperate
shortages of food and medicine. Ms. Freeland has expressed concern
that the turmoil in Venezuela will spark a refugee crisis in South
In November, Canada sanctioned 19 Venezuelans, including Mr. Maduro,
under a new Magnitsky-style law that allows the government to target
human-rights abusers. The Magnitsky sanctions come less than two
months after Canada targeted 40 Venezuelan government officials and
individuals under a different sanctions regime.
- With a report from The Associated Press
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