OTTAWA — Canada is moving to expel a Venezuelan diplomat from the country and strip his credentials in retaliation after his Canadian counterpart was kicked out of the South American nation.
The latest developments come after months of sanctions and criticism by Canada against Venezuela, which led to the crisis-ridden country declaring Canada's charge d'affaires — the diplomat who leads an embassy in the absence of an ambassador — persona non grata, stripping him of his diplomatic credentials and barring him from returning to the country.
Venezuelan national constituent assembly president Delcy Rodriguez accused Canadian diplomat Craig Kowalik of meddling in the country's politics and tweeting "rude and vulgar" comments about the nation.
Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland said that Venezuela's ambassador to Canada, who had already been withdrawn by his government to protest Canadian sanctions, was no longer welcome in the country in response.
She also declared the Venezuelan charge d'affaires, Angel Herrera, persona non grata.
"Canadians will not stand by as the government of Venezuela robs its people of their fundamental democratic and human rights, and denies them access to basic humanitarian assistance," Freeland said in a statement released on Christmas Day.
"We will continue to work with our partners in the region ... to apply pressure on the anti-democratic Maduro regime and restore the rights of the Venezuelan people."
Venezuela has suffered major economic distress since the death of Hugo Chavez, an outspoken socialist who led the country from 1999 to 2013.
A dramatic drop in global oil prices since late 2014 and the devaluation of the country's currency caused inflation to skyrocket and led to shortages of food, medicine and other basic necessities.
Canada has already imposed sanctions against 40 key members of President Nicolas Maduro's regime since September.
Freeland said the officials had been implicated in "corruption and gross human rights abuses."
Economic sanctions are also being carried out by the Lima Group, a body made up of Canada and 11 other Latin American countries.
Freeland called Venezuela's decision to expel the Canadian diplomat a typical move by the Maduro regime, saying that efforts to restore democracy in the country have been consistently undermined.
Representatives for the Canadian government were not immediately available for an interview on Monday.
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