Venezuela is no longer a country known for having beautiful beaches, for being home to the tallest waterfall in the world or for winning countless beauty pageants. Instead, the oil-rich country is often mentioned along with its rampant crime rates, food shortages, and growing number of political prisoners. More importantly, it has become the center of political tension- a ticking political time bomb waiting to explode.
Following the presidential elections of April 14, 2013, Venezuela's political situation remains vulnerable. Last spring, numerous election irregularities prompted the opposition to refuse the results until a total vote recount. However, the Venezuelan Election Commission claims that Nicolas Maduro won with a scarce 50.8 percent.
Regardless of debates over the distribution of power within Venezuela's institutions and whether these results are actually truthful, it is nearly indisputable that this narrow vote reveals a fragile situation. This political division requires a great deal of effort to govern in the interest of all the Venezuelan people.
Consequently, last week, leaders from the opposition coalition, Ramón Guillermo Aveledo and Delsa Solórzano, met with Members of Parliament in hopes of exposing the need for a peaceful and democratic change. They met with Dean Allison and David Anderson from the Conservative Party, Paul Dewar and Hélène Laverdière from the NDP, Marc Garneau from the Liberal Party, Elizabeth May from the Green Party, and Jean Francois Fortin from the Bloc Québécois, among others.
The Venezuelan leaders highlighted in their meetings that unity and dialogue is the only way for peaceful change in the country, and that the change they seek needs to be democratic, constitutional and electoral. They also voiced a call for help with respect to the human rights situation in the country. Particularly, they stressed their concern over the growing number of political prisoners, and the government's threats to imprison the opposition leader, Henrique Capriles Radonski.
The Conservative government has made the promotion and protection of human rights an integral part of Canadian foreign policy. Canadians expect their government to be a leader in the human rights field by reflecting and promoting Canadian values on the international stage. Venezuela should be no different.
In the bigger picture, perhaps there is very little that Canadian parliamentarians can do to alleviate Venezuela's current volatile situation. Nevertheless, they can promote dialogue and reconciliation within Venezuela's political environment in order to develop a system that represents the real interests of all Venezuelans. Canada can be a voice advocating the shared values for democracy, social justice, and human rights.
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