08/17/2017 10:56 EDT | Updated 08/17/2017 10:59 EDT

Canada Must Show Venezuela's Criminal Regime What We Stand For

The supporters of the dictatorship are not welcome in Canada, where they and their families enjoy the human rights they have denied Venezuelans.

Civil war is a possibility in Venezuela. The South American country is suffering a social and economic crisis that some have classified as a "humanitarian crisis", due to a severe lack of food and medicines and a rapid increase of those living in poverty. After four months of street protests that caused more than 120 dead, thousands of injured, hundreds tortured, over 4,000 prosecuted (many in military courts), and nearly 500 political prisoners, the Maduro dictatorship has not backed off.

But things have changed, at least politically, since the illegitimate and unconstitutional Constituent Assembly was "elected" (this is an overstatement) on July 30. The regime is trying to illegally re-write the constitution, even though on July 16 close to 7.7 million Venezuelans voted against it in a referendum called by the parliament.

Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro attends a rally supporting him and opposing U.S. President Donald Trump, in Caracas, on Aug. 14, 2017.

After July 30 there is a new "normal" in the country where all political actors are trying to find their place, including the opposition represented under the coalition umbrella called Mesa de la Unidad Democrática (MUD). This new "normality" has not prevented the regime to continue violating human rights and literally destroying the economic and social tissue of the country: Venezuela has the highest inflation rate in the world, one of the highest murder rates and a devastated public health-care system.

The regime has found a way to "domesticate" the opposition, reduce or even stop street protests, and consolidate a police state that controls everything. Venezuela is heading towards a military narco-dictatorship with a facade of civilian presidents; the current president, Nicolás Maduro, could be replaced, but that won't change anything.

Canada should put more pressure on the Venezuelan dictatorship.

The situation of the poor and middle class will continue to deteriorate. Millions of Venezuelans have left the country; more than 30,000 are now living in Canada. Many more will continue to flee the Venezuelan nightmare with the potential of causing a migratory crisis in Colombia, Brazil, Ecuador and Peru.

Through psychological warfare and selective repression, the regime will prevent any internal relevant threat to its survival. Even the military who recently rebelled have shown that they are either very clumsy or part of a performance staged by the government, with the help of Cuban secret services, who have been very active in Venezuela for more than 18 years.

Yuri Gripas / Reuters
Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland (C) takes a seat next to Brazilian Foreign Minister Aloysio Nunes (R) before the Organization of American States (OAS) meeting of foreign ministers to discuss the situation in Venezuela in Washington, U.S., May 31, 2017.

What Canada can do? The country's foreign affairs minister, Chrystia Freeland, has said: "Canada welcomes and supports the important actions taken ... by the United States to target leaders of the regime. Individuals who are undermining democracy and human rights in Venezuela should be held accountable for their actions."

But Canada should put more pressure on the Venezuelan dictatorship, sanction public officials and army high ranks, and clearly show that they cannot have assets here and their families living comfortably in Canada, while they continue to violate human rights and benefit through corruption. The supporters of the dictatorship and corrupted officials are not welcome in Canada, where they and their families can enjoy the human rights and democracy they have denied Venezuelans, and neither should they be able to enjoy the money stolen from Venezuelans. Canada should act swiftly to help Venezuela overcome this tragic situation and send a clear message to the Venezuelan criminal regime that Canada stands for human rights and democracy in the Americas.

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