APG Open Letter: Canada Must Call forDialogue Amid Unrest in Venezuela

America’s Policy Group sends letter to John Baird

Dear Minister Baird,

The Americas’ Policy Group (APG), composed of faith-based groups, development NGO’s, trade unions, and solidarity organizations, is a working group of the Canadian Council for International Co-operation (CCIC). We are extremely concerned about the disruption of democratic order in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, over the past two months, and the lack of clarity of Canada’s position on this crisis.

We are concerned that the February 28 House of Commons resolution on unrest in Venezuela appears to hold the Venezuelan government solely responsible for the political violence and fails to address the fact that both government supporters and state security forces, as well as the opposition, have equally suffered fatalities, wounded and detained.

Those responsible for a large part of the violence are the opposition leaders, Leopoldo Lopez and Maria Corina Machado, who have been instigating the violent demonstrations with the clear aim of destabilising the democratically elected government. In the face of polarization and deep tensions in Venezuela, they have called for street protests which have provided cover for a small group of violent protestors to take to the streets, attacking – with rocks and Molotov cocktails – public institutions like the police headquarters and the Attorney General’s office. Both López and Machado have refused to enter into any dialogue to peacefully resolve the conflict as called for by President Maduro.

On March 7, Canada found itself virtually isolated in the community of the Americas, as one of only three members of the Organization of American States (OAS) to vote against a resolution to support talks between the government of Venezuela and opposition forces (29 countries voted to support a peace dialogue). Whereas political forces in the United States are moving towards implementing economic sanctions against the Venezuelan Government, the governments of South America have taken a more balanced and respectful approach, forming a commission to attempt to mediate between the government and the opposition.