Venezuela Solidarity Group to Freeland: Lima Group Not Welcome in Toronto

As Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland further esca­lated Canada’s shameful interfer­ence in Venezuela, the Venezuela solidarity movement in Toronto made a stand to show that Ven­ezuela is not alone.

The so-called “Lima Group” of twelve nations that support the United States’ regime change plans against the democratically elected President of Venezuela, was hosted by Freeland in Toronto. We should remember that Canada has hosted these kinds of meetings before, including in 2003 where a secret international meeting discussed regime change in Haiti, a few months before the coup against the democratically elected President in that country.

The Canada-wide solidarity organization, the Hugo Chavez People’s Defence Front, called for the meeting to be cancelled and is­sued a warning, “history has taught us that such actions are a pretext for foreign military intervention, regime change and looting of natu­ral resources.” In a press release, the Hugo Chavez Front, pointed to facts ignored by the Trudeau government and the Lima Group: “Venezuelans went to polls for the second vote this year, this time to elect Regional Governors. The outcome, recognized by observers and the majority of the opposition leaders, was a resounding victory for the governing United Social­ist Party of Venezuela in 18 of 23 states.”

After the official meeting, a public meeting was organized at the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs titled “Resolving the Venezuelan Crisis.” The event was hosted by Global Affairs Canada and the “Canadian Council for the Americas,” whose corporate membership includes Scotia Bank, Kinross Gold, Goldcorp, Lundin Mining, Frontera Energy and the Toronto Stock Exchange.

Solidarity groups gathered outside the event holding large banners demanding that Canada and the USA keep their “hands off Venezuela.”

Chrystia Freeland and Irwin Cotler opened the meeting. Irwin Cotler is an ex-Liberal MP, who has been appointed by the histori­cally US-dominated Organization of American States to investigate supposed “crimes against human­ity” committed by the Venezuelan government.

Freeland said that Canada was not interested in “regime change” necessarily, and implored the op­position in Venezuela “get itself together”. However, the meeting as a whole discussed the use of sanctions, funding and organ­izing “Venezuelan civil society” and ramping up the propaganda campaign to change the govern­ment of Venezuela. This is clearly a regime change strategy and was acknowledged as such by one of the academics speaking on the panel later in the forum.

Minister Freeland claimed that, “Canada has never been an imperialist power. It’s even almost funny to say that phrase. We’ve been the colony.” Is it funny? Freeland seemed oblivious to the fact that the event in which she was discussing how to best inter­fere in a sovereign country tens of thousands of miles away was hosted by large Canadian mining, energy and financial monopolies. She also seemed unaware of the Canadian government’s long and genocidal history of colonialism directed at Indigenous nations since Canada was founded.

The featured speaker on the panel was the ex-Attorney General Luisa Ortega, who is currently facing charges in Venezuela for corrup­tion and extortion. The Constituent Assembly of Venezuela removed Ortega as Attorney General, after it became apparent that she was not enforcing the law in regards to violent opposition demonstra­tions, which cost the lives of over 120 people.

As soon as Ortega began to speak, protestors chanting “hands off Venezuela” got up on stage displaying large banners. One read “Hands Off Venezuela” and the other read “Canada and OAS: Stop the plunder! Out of Venezuela!” The event was peacefully inter­rupted for a few minutes as event organizers reacted and the protest­ers were escorted out by security. Unfortunately, other dissent in the audience was silenced due to the organizers insisting on no questions or comments from the floor and only questions submitted in advance.

The events surrounding the Lima Group meeting in Toronto showed that the Canadian government is intent on playing a shameful “leadership” role in interfering with a country that is struggling for sovereignty, independence and democratic advancement and greater equality.

It also showed that solidarity groups and many Torontonians see this as shameful and dangerous.

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