Canada wants Lima Group meeting to keep pressure on Maduro to step down

Canada wants Lima Group meeting to keep pressure on Maduro

OTTAWA — Canada and its Lima Group allies will use their Monday meeting in Ottawa to find new ways — including financial — to support the Venezuelan opposition and ease the refugee crisis in neighbouring Brazil and Colombia.

The agenda for the gathering of foreign ministers from more than a dozen of Canada’s Western Hemisphere allies was still being finalized on Friday, in part because of the speed at which the Venezuelan crisis is unfolding.

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland will host the meeting two days after Saturday’s scheduled national street protests in Venezuela aimed at pressing the country’s socialist leader, Nicolas Maduro, to vacate the presidency.

Canada has already contributed $2.2 million for the humanitarian crisis in Venezuela that has forced three million people from their homes, sending ripples across the region.

Sources say Canada won’t be adding to that fund because Maduro won’t allow proper humanitarian access to the country.

And while they stress Monday’s meeting is not a pledging conference, sources said the discussions will include looking at new political and financial ways to support the politician they see as the country’s true interim president: parliamentary leader Juan Guaido.

One source framed a central question for the talks as: “How can we continue to pressure Maduro in such a way that he steps down to allow for a new election? What more can we be doing in terms of financial support but also general support?”

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