Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced a $53 million pledge in aid for Venezuela Monday as Canada and its Lima Group allies met in Ottawa to discuss the country’s current humanitarian crisis, CBC reported.
The crisis in Venezuela began almost 10 years ago, but it escalated last month when President Nicolas Maduro won a term in what many are calling an illegitimate election. Following this, opposition leader Juan Guaidó declared himself interim president, and intense, violent protests have since erupted.
Country leaders have been vocal about who they are supporting, and Monday’s meeting addressed just that. Foreign ministers from Canada, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Saint Lucia, as well as the UK met to declare support for Guaidó.
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Guaidó addressed the meeting by video, according to CBC.
“We are very close to reaching freedom, and that is the result of the international support we've received and the recognition of this process of respecting the rule of law and having a non-violent approach,” Guaidó said in Spanish, CBC reported. “Unfortunately we're still under a dictatorship in Venezuela. That's why it's time to increase pressure.”
Venezuela is currently in a state of crisis. Almost 90% of the population lives in poverty, there are widespread food shortages, and access to health care is becoming increasingly difficult. Doctors have left the country, infant and maternal mortality rates have increased, and disease outbreaks are spreading.
The state of the country has left women and children vulnerable to human trafficking, it has wreaked havoc on the education system, and has limited access to water and sanitation for the general population.
Since 2015, more than 3 million people have fled Venezuela, heading to neighbouring countries like Peru and Colombia, according to the United Nations.
Maduro has denied the reports of crisis in his country.
Together with the #LimaGroup, Canada stands on the side of #humanrights. On the side of #democracy. On the side of a peaceful transition in #Venezuela. Canada will not waver in its support for the people of Venezuela. pic.twitter.com/fCppAMGOOc— Chrystia Freeland (@cafreeland) February 4, 2019
“Venezuela is the victim of world media attacks designed to construct a supposed humanitarian crisis so as to justify a military intervention,” Maduro told the UN General Assembly in September, the Washington Post reported.
Most of the $53 million committed by Trudeau on Monday will go to trusted partners and to neighbouring countries that are supporting Venezuelans, Trudeau said. The funds are meant to help “address the most pressing needs of Venezuelans on the ground.”
Mexico, who is part of the Lima Group, did not attend the meeting in Ottawa, as President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador supports Maduro.
But support for Maduro is waning elsewhere, as evidenced by the group of nations that met on Monday.
“This wasn't caused by a famine or a hurricane. It was caused by the government mismanagement and kleptocratic approach of this dictatorship of Nicolas Maduro and his cronies,” Alan Duncan, Minister of State for Europe and the Americas and UK representative, said at the Lima Group meeting. “Maduro and his socialism are entirely self-discrediting. If anyone believes his management of the economy is in any way an example of how to go about it, then they need their heads examined.”