Canada targets Venezuelan leaders with economic sanctions

OTTAWA/CARACAS – Canada says it will impose sanctions against senior members of the Venezuelan government over their “anti-democratic behavior”.

Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland said Canada “will not stand by silently” amid the Latin American country’s ongoing crisis.

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The move, which followed a similar decision by the United States, came after months of protests against President Nicolas Maduro’s government. At least 125 people were killed in the demonstrations.

Canada said the 40 people targeted by its sanctions were “the people responsible for the deterioration of democracy” and warned of Venezuela’s “deepening descent into dictatorship”.

Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, Vice-President Tareck El Aissami and the head of the constituent assembly, Delcy Rodriguez, is among the 40 people who will have their assets frozen, and Canadians will be banned from doing business with them.

The move follows a similar action by the United States in August.

“Today’s announcement of sanctions against the Maduro regime underscores our commitment to defending democracy and human rights around the world,” said Ms. Freeland.

“Canada stands in solidarity with the people of Venezuela as they struggle to restore democracy in their country.”

Ms. Freeland told Canada’s Globe and Mail newspaper she would be hosting a meeting of the Lima group – a bloc of 12 countries focusing on the crisis – in the next 60 days.

Caracas late on Friday night decried the sanctions, accusing Ottawa of “submission” to U.S. President Donald Trump in a bid to overthrow the South American country’s leftist administration.

“Canada’s government established … an immoral association of subordination with the government of President Donald Trump with the clear aim of overthrowing Venezuela’s constitutional government using economic sanctions as political weapons,” the government said in a statement.

The crisis in socialist nation has led to widespread food and medicine shortages, prompting President Maduro to encourage citizens to breed rabbits for meat.

Critics say Maduro has plunged the nation into its worst economic crisis ever and brought it to the brink of dictatorship. Maduro says he was facing a U.S.-backed “armed insurrection” seeking to foment a coup.