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Freeland says Venezuela’s Maduro is now a dictator after illegitimate win

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OTTAWA — Thursday’s inauguration of Nicolas Maduro has solidified him as a dictator, Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland said in a scathing denunciation of the Venezuelan president that aligned Canada with major allies.
Freeland characterized Ma…


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  • OTTAWA — Thursday’s inauguration of Nicolas Maduro has solidified him as a dictator, Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland said in a scathing denunciation of the Venezuelan president that aligned Canada with major allies.

    Freeland characterized Maduro’s recent election victory as illegitimate as he was sworn in for a second term in Caracas. Canada joined the United States and 17 Latin American governments in rejecting the legitimacy of the new Maduro government.

    “Having seized power through fraudulent and anti-democratic elections held on May 20, 2018, the Maduro regime is now fully entrenched as a dictatorship,” Freeland said in a statement. “The suffering of Venezuelans will only worsen should he continue to illegitimately cling to power.”

    Canada has downgraded diplomatic relations with Venezuela and imposed sanctions on 70 officials in the regime.

    Venezuela’s 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. Canada has provided $2.2 million in humanitarian assistance to Venezuela and is a member of the Lima Group of countries that is trying to bring international pressure to bear on the South American country.

    “We call on (Maduro) to immediately cede power to the democratically elected National Assembly until new elections are held, which must include the participation of all political actors and follow the release of all political prisoners in Venezuela,” said Freeland.

    Many other countries in Europe and Latin America snubbed Maduro’s inauguration ceremony, but the socialist presidents of Cuba and Bolivia, Miguel Diaz-Canel and Evo Morales, showed up to support him. Maduro used his inauguration speech to shoot back at Canada and the U.S.

    “Venezuela is the centre of a world war led by the North American imperialists and its allies,” he said.

    Maduro vowed to fight his enemies in the spirit of former president Hugo Chavez, and accused the U.S. of stoking the unrest through the sanctions. Maduro was Venezuela’s vice-president under Chavez, until Chavez’s death in 2013.

    Freeland and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo gave their full-throated support to Juan Guaido, who assumed the presidency of the country’s only democratically elected institution, the National Assembly.

    “The United States remains steadfast in its support of the Venezuelan people and will continue to use the full weight of U.S. economic and diplomatic power to press for the restoration of Venezuelan democracy,” Pompeo said.

    Rich in oil, Venezuela was once one of the Western Hemisphere’s economic success stories, but its crude production has declined by two-thirds amid allegations of corruption and mismanagement in the state-run oil company, PDVSA.

    A recent report, jointly authored by a Canadian and an American think-tank, urged the U.S. to take the lead in confiscating and repurposing US$3 billion in frozen Venezuelan assets to help the country’s neighbours and international agencies provide support to refugees and migrants.

    The Centre for International Governance Innovation in Waterloo, Ont. and the Washington-based Inter-American Dialogue estimated that the ill-gotten proceeds of Venezuelan corruption total in the tens of billions of dollars, noting that the U.S. Treasury Department estimates that $2 billion has been stolen from PDVSA alone.

    “While the frozen assets stolen from a country’s treasury would under normal circumstances be returned to that country, the kleptocratic nature of the Venezuelan regime makes it impossible to ensure that the funds would go to the benefit of the Venezuelan public,” the report says.

    Mike Blanchfield, The Canadian Press



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    National

    Canadian Press NewsAlert: Canadian citizen killed in Honduras plane crash

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    TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras — Global Affairs is confirming that a Canadian citizen has been killed in a plane crash in Honduras.
    A spokesperson for the department says the crash happened in the Roatan Islands area.
    Stefano Maron says consular offic…


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  • TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras — Global Affairs is confirming that a Canadian citizen has been killed in a plane crash in Honduras.

    A spokesperson for the department says the crash happened in the Roatan Islands area.

    Stefano Maron says consular officials in the capital, Tegucigalpa, are in contact with local authorities and providing consular assistance to the victim’s family.

    Local media report that all five people who died in yesterday’s crash were foreigners.

    More coming.

    The Canadian Press


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    Environment

    ‘Rope-a-dope’: Environmentalists say Alberta war room threat won’t distract them

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    EDMONTON — Environmental groups targeted by Alberta Premier Jason Kenney are shrugging off the new government’s promised $30-million “war room” to fight criticisms of the province’s energy industry.
    “The war room makes for good theatre, but the people …


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  • EDMONTON — Environmental groups targeted by Alberta Premier Jason Kenney are shrugging off the new government’s promised $30-million “war room” to fight criticisms of the province’s energy industry.

    “The war room makes for good theatre, but the people who follow this closely are going to look at this as amateur hour,” said Keith Stewart of Greenpeace.

    “Chasing environmentalists might play well politically, but it’s not actually relevant to the discussion that Alberta and Canada need to be having,” added Simon Dyer of the clean-energy think tank Pembina Institute.

    Both groups have been singled out by Kenney as examples of ones distorting the truth about the impact of the oilsands. The premier has said government staff will be tasked with responding quickly to what he calls myths and lies.

    Kenney has also promised to fund lawsuits against offending environmentalists and to call a public inquiry into the role of money from U.S. foundations.

    “Stay tuned,” Energy Minister Sonya Savage said Tuesday. “We’ll have something to talk about next week.”

    Environmental groups have already been discussing informally what the United Conservative government might have in mind and how they should react.

    “We’ve been contacted,” said Devon Page of Ecojustice, an environmental law firm. “We’ve been saying to the groups, ‘We’re here. We’ll respond and represent you as we have in the past.’

    “What we’re trying hard not to do is to do what I think the Kenney government wants, which is to get distracted.”

    Dyer and Stewart said their groups are about 85 per cent funded by Canadians. The Pembina Institute was founded in Drayton Valley, Alta., and its headquarters remain in Calgary.

    Both called the war room political posturing aimed at the party’s base.

    “A lot of the rhetoric around our work and our contribution to Alberta has been based on complete misinformation,” said Dyer, who pointed out Pembina has worked with virtually every major energy company in the province.

    Stewart called the threats a rerun of the 2012 campaign against environmental groups fuelled by the right-wing The Rebel media group and led by Stephen Harper’s federal Conservatives.

    “We learned to play rope-a-dope,” said Stewart. “Stephen Harper was our best recruiter.

    “We had people contacting us saying, ‘How do I lie down in front of a bulldozer?’ We don’t usually get a lot of those calls but we were getting a lot of those calls.”

    Each group is confident in the accuracy of the facts it cites. Dyer said Pembina research has been used by investors, academics and governments.

    Stewart said the issue isn’t facts, but how they are understood. 

    “Often what it is is a disagreement over which fact is important. Industry will say, ‘We’re reducing emissions per barrel.’ We’ll say, ‘Emissions are going up.’ Both statements are true and it depends which you think is more important.”

    Cara Zwibel of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association said the Kenney government must tread carefully. It’s OK to defend your position, but not to threaten, she said.

    “If we’re talking about initiating lawsuits against individuals or organizations on the basis of speaking out on issues of public importance, then that raises serious problems,” she said. “Then we have a much more obvious impact and potential violation on freedom of expression.”

    The province could possibly expose itself to legal action if its statements harm a group or individual — say, by putting them at the centre of a Twitter firestorm, said an Edmonton lawyer.

    “There’s certainly some kind of moral responsibility in terms of understanding that kind of highly charged rhetoric,” said Sean Ward, who practises media law. “You have to understand the consequences that are likely to follow.”

    Ward said any cases the government funds would also be tough to win. 

    “There are a lot of available defences. It’s difficult to see that this sort of general debate they’re going to be able to shut down with defamation law.”

    Environmentalists say their response will be to avoid distraction and carry on.

    “The vast majority active in this place don’t want to go back to a high conflict, polarizing environment,” Dyer said. “We’re not interested in polarizing this debate.”

    Bob Weber, The Canadian Press




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