OTTAWA — Canada suspended operations at its embassy in Venezuela on Sunday, saying President Nicolas Maduros regime is increasingly clamping down on diplomats who oppose his rule.
The diplomats visas are set to expire at the end of June, Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland said in a statement, and Maduros regime — which Canada has denounced as illegitimate and characterized as a dictatorship — has made it so they cannot be renewed.
"As Venezuela slides deeper into dictatorship, and as Venezuelans continue to suffer at the hands of the illegitimate Maduro regime, the regime has taken steps to limit the ability of foreign embassies to function in Venezuela, particularly those advocating for the restoration of democracy in Venezuela," she said.
"We are also evaluating the status of Venezuelan diplomats appointed by the Maduro regime to Canada," she said in the statement.
News that embassy operations were being put on hold came a day before Freeland was set to meet in New York with other members of the Lima Group — a bloc that includes more than a dozen Latin American countries opposing Maduro.
Canada is among as many as 50 countries that have said Maduro stole last years election and is no longer the legitimate leader of Venezuela.
Instead, the Lima Group backed opposition leader Juan Guaido, who declared himself Venezuelas interim leader at the beginning of this year.
Freeland said that through its work with the Lima Group, the government will continue to advocate for democracy in the South American nation.
Canada has imposed sanctions on more than 100 officials in Maduros regime in a bid to hold them accountable.
The countrys political and economic crisis has forced three million people to flee their homes in search of food, health care and other basic services since 2015.
Global Affairs said Canadians in Venezuela who need consular assistance can reach out to the Embassy of Canada to Colombia, in Bogota, and noted that Ottawa has advised against travelling to Venezuela for the past several months.
Canada suspended operations at its embassy in Venezuela on Sunday, saying President Nicolas Maduros regime is increasingly clamping down on diplomats who oppose his rule.
Canada is temporarily shutting down its embassy in Venezuela, according to Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland.
In a press release Sunday, Global Affairs confirmed all operations would be suspended effective immediately.
Canada will also be "evaluating the status" of Venezuelan diplomats to Canada appointed by President Nicolas Maduro.
Canada is part of a group of countries who believe Maduro's re-election last year was fraudulent. Canadian officials have called for him to step down so opposition leader Juan Guaido, who several dozen countries now recognize as Venezuela's legitimate interim leader, can take over.
"As Venezuela slides deeper into dictatorship, and as Venezuelans continue to suffer at the hands of the illegitimate Maduro regime, the regime has taken steps to limit the ability of foreign embassies to function in Venezuela," Freeland's statement said.
"Unfortunately, at the end of this month, Canadian diplomats in Venezuela will no longer be in a position to obtain diplomatic accreditation under the Maduro regime, and their visas will expire. Therefore, we are left with no choice but to temporarily suspend our operations at the Embassy of Canada to Venezuela."
The U.S. withdrew its remaining embassy staff from Venezuela in March, citing a deteriorating situation.
Venezuela is in the throes of a historic political and social crisis marked by shortages of food and medicine that has driven three million people to flee the country in recent years.
Freeland said Canada will still provide consular services through its embassy in neighbouring Colombia.
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