Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland announced the expulsion of Venezuelan Ambassador Wilmer Barrientos Fernandez and Diplomat Angel Herrera on Monday. Herrera had already been withdrawn from Canada by his government in protest against Canadian sanctions earlier this year, and Barrientos Fernandez had already been abroad.
The Canadian Minister’s words come in retaliation to events that occurred two days prior in Caracas, Venezuela. Delcy Rodriguez, the head of Venezuela’s Constituent Assembly, expelled Canadian Charge D’affaires Craig Kowalik along with Brazilian Ambassador Ruy Pereira. The two officials were respectively accused of “violating the rule of law” and “interfering in Venezuela’s internal affairs,” writes the BBC. Both countries denounced the move at the time.
In her address on Monday, Freeland made reference to the expulsion of Canada’s diplomat. She called these actions “typical of the Maduro regime, which has consistently undermined all efforts to restore democracy and to help the Venezuelan people,” according to The Globe and Mail.
Canada has taken a critical stance against the government of Nicolás Maduro over the past few months. These recent expulsions of diplomatic officials from both governments represent a culmination of tensions over President Maduro’s actions.
Earlier this year, the Canadian government imposed sanctions on Venezuelan officials for alleged corruption and human rights violations. As well as sanctioning Venezuelan officials, Canada is a member of the 17-member bloc that convened in August in Lima, Peru that denounced the Constituent Assembly as illegitimate, which held its first elections in July. President Maduro convened this assembly by his presidential decree – a tool he has used repeatedly to exercise power.
Freeland repeated Canada’s position towards Venezuela in her announcement on Monday when she said, “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,” according to the BBC.
While supporters argued that the Constituent Assembly would bring peace to the nation, critics feared it would further concentrate power in the hands of President Maduro and weaken the opposition. The CEO of Smartmatic, the Venezuelan company that provided voting machines for the election, said that the votes had been tampered with.
In a report from November 22 from CNNMoney, Professor of Applied Economics at Johns Hopkins University Steve Hanke claimed that inflation levels in Venezuela had reached 4,115%. The struggle is deepening for ordinary Venezuelans feeling the effects of the economic crisis, who are forced to wait in long lines at the supermarkets and ATMS. Food shortages have been occurring for years. The government and state companies also struggle with worsening debt.
Protests involving clashes with riot police in the four months preceding the vote on July 30 for the Constituent Assembly left 120 dead, according to the BBC. Thousands were arrested and hundreds injured, according to The Atlantic. The United Nations criticized the use of excessive force against Venezuelan protesters.
The effects of Freeland’s announcement on the relations between the Canadian and Venezuelan governments remains to be seen, and it is unclear how this will affect diplomatic progress towards improving democracy in Venezuela. On Tuesday, Brazil also expelled the Venezuelan diplomat there. It is clear, however, that these recent events will continue to place international pressure on the Maduro government.