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One of the most despicable foreign policy decisions made by the government of Canada must have been co-opting a small number of Latin American countries to turn against their regional neighbor Venezuela. The plotters called themselves the Lima Group after a meeting that took place in Lima, Peru. That was much more than a casual coming together of like-minded rightwing governments. That was an intentional ganging up of eleven Latin American governments with a Canadian boss to commit an act of betrayal against the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. Betrayal to a shared cultural and historical background. Canada took on the leadership role in this deceiving scheme. To be specific, this happened during the government of Justin Trudeau with Chrystia Freeland as Minister of Global Affairs.
Exactly four years later, after approximately thirty ineffective bureaucratic joint declarations and several countries withdrawing, the so-called Lima Group is on the verge of being declared defunct. It is quite fitting that one of the last withdrawal from the group comes precisely from Lima. Peruvian Minister of Foreign Affairs Héctor Béjar could not have said it any better, “The Lima Group must be the most disastrous thing we have done in international politics in the history of Peru.” But Peruvians also made an outstanding contribution to our region last April by electing leftist Pedro Castillo as president contributing to the re-birth of the Latin American anti-imperialist left.
The “Lima Group”
The so-called Lima Group issued its last joint statement in early 2021 to announce that they “do not recognize the legitimacy or legality of the National Assembly [of Venezuela] installed on January 5, 2021. This illegitimate National Assembly is the product of the fraudulent elections of December 6, 2020, organized by the illegitimate regime of Nicolás Maduro.” Do they offer any proof of the “fraudulent elections”? Of course not. They have also delegitimized the dozens of international observers present at the Venezuelan elections.
The listed signatory countries of this statement were, “Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Paraguay, Peru, Venezuela.” Of course Peru is now out. If you wonder how Venezuela is named on this list, the explanation is that they made up a parallel “Venezuela” with an unelected “president” Juan Guaidó. This is a fictitious, nonexistent entity that has no recognition by the United Nations. The UN recognizes the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela as a State member of the world organization and the representatives appointed by the government of President Nicolas Maduro. If anything, this is what makes the “Lima Group” a self-appointed body with no mission statement except the unwritten aim to dismantle the Bolivarian Revolution headed by president Maduro who was democratically elected by the majority of Venezuelans in their sovereign right. More seriously, we should all be warned that The “Lima Group” pretence to be an international body is irresponsible and dangerous.
The rest of the signatory countries are headed by rightwing governments, some with grim records of human rights violations. Suffice to mention Canada-supported Colombia as an example. Political analyst Yves Engler recently wrote, “During the past month [Colombian] security forces have killed at least 50 and probably dozens more. Over 300 individuals are missing, according to Colombia’s National Movement of Victims of State Crimes, in a country with a history of political disappearances.” This is the country with which Canada, by its own admission, “shares a commitment to democracy and human rights.”
To understand the real nature of the “Lima Group” it is important to backtrack to when the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela was still a member of the Organization of American States. At the time, the US and Canada, with full unauthorized support of the OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro, had been very active in trying to twist the application of the Inter-American Democratic Charter and condemn Venezuela for “unconstitutional alteration or interruption of the democratic order.” A majority vote of the 33-country organisation would have expelled Venezuela from it.
But that failed on several attempts and for a good reason. The US and Canada were in contempt of Chapter 4, Article 19 of the 1948 OAS Charter that explicitly says, “No State or group of States has the right to intervene, directly or indirectly, for any reason whatever, in the internal or external affairs of any other State.” This article is unequivocal and is the foundational principle that should prevent any intervention against Venezuela. But not for the Canadian government, not for the US government and not even for the guardian of the Charter, OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro.
Nevertheless, in order to bypass the lack of the required votes to condemn Venezuela, Canada took on the leading role in creating the spurious “Lima Group” in August 2017 to issue mostly misleading statements that would “justify” foreign intervention through economic sanctions and other coercive measures.
In the meantime, the US, which is not a member of the group, would use its hardline approach of military threats, coercive measures and financial blockade of Venezuela as a direct intervention “in the internal or external affairs” of Venezuela. The Maduro government eventually announced its withdrawal from the OAS later in 2017.
Canada and the US continue to be in contempt of the OAS Charter as well as of the UN Charter, which in its Article 2(5) states, “All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state”. The “Lima Group” has been appropriately dubbed as a gang of “International Outlaws”. The US based on its exceptionalism doctrine; Canada based on its rapidly increasing imperialist role.
Canada-US alignment of foreign policies on Venezuela were formalized on September 5, 2017 in order to fulfil Canada’s administrative requirement for joint action in their effort and coordination to overthrow Maduro’s government. In the process they intended to pillage Venezuela like a modern day El Dorado; “the US gets Venezuela’s oil and Canada gets Venezuela’s minerals, especially the rich gold mines.” In fact, Canada’s determination for unconstitutional regime change in Venezuela has been described as to satisfy its own interests: “the growth of Canadian mining, banking and other sectors in Latin America has pushed Ottawa towards a more aggressive posture in the region. So, while it is true that Canada often does the bidding of its US puppet master, capitalists in the Great White North are also independent actors seeking to fill their own pockets and thwart the will of the Venezuelan people.”
Why is important to celebrate Lima’s withdrawal from the “Lima Group”?
After the withdrawal of Mexico in 2019, Argentina in early 2021, and Bolivia from the “Lima Group”, the group has been declining in numbers but also in relevance according to governments with some regional influence. Peru’s recent withdrawal has a symbolic relevance having been the birthplace of the group and also because it brings it closer to its demise leaving Canada as the non-Latin American or Caribbean bully in the collective. Among the smaller Caribbean countries, Saint Lucia Minister for external affairs Alva Baptiste has also announced, “We are going to get out of the Lima Group arrangement – that morally bankrupt, mongoose gang, we are going to get out of it because this group has imposed needless hardship on the children, men and women of Venezuela”. In addition, “The prime minister [of Saint Lucia] further confirmed that his government’s position on Venezuela will be consistent with the official position of [the Caribbean Community] CARICOM of non-interference in the internal affairs of a sovereign state”.
However, the most important significance of Lima’s withdrawal from the “Lima Group” is about the political environment of corruption. The “Lima Group” was formalized by Peru’s former President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski (2016-2018). After a series of scandals and facing a second impeachment vote, Kuczynski resigned the presidency on 21 March 2018 following the release of videos showing alleged acts of vote buying. The “righteous” Canadian government had no qualms being associated with a corrupt Peruvian government.
Like in the case of Mexico, Argentina and Bolivia with the election of progressive presidents Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, Alberto Fernandez and Luis Arce, respectively, the election of progressive Pedro Castillo as president of Peru suggests a political trend towards a Latin America that aspires to self-determination with no interference from other regional or European political actors who maintain an obsolete imperialistic and colonial hegemonic practice.
Canada and US in the regional context
It is worth noting that US Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken spoke with Peruvian President-Elect Pedro Castillo in July and was reported that “he thanked Peru for its support in addressing the Venezuela crisis and expressed his hope that Peru would continue to play a constructive role in addressing the deteriorating situations in Cuba and Nicaragua.” The reference to the corrupt Kuczynski’s Peru is quite obvious. There is no sense of shame. And it is nothing less than a bullish threatening warning for Mr. Castillo to continue his alignment with US foreign policy.
A rebuttal to that call may have come a few days later. In a press release issued on August 9, Peruvian Minister of Foreign Affairs Héctor Béjar stated, “We are in favor of any action aimed at contributing to the necessary dialogue between the government of Venezuela and the opposition, so that an agreement can be reached for the convening of free, fair and democratic elections. We believe that this dialogue should also serve to create the conditions for the lifting of economic sanctions that only affect the living conditions of the Venezuelan people.” This is not a statement of unconditional embracing of Chavismo, but it is a reaffirmation of abiding to the legality of international charters that the US and Canada choose to blatantly violate.
In the same press release Mr. Béjar also gave Peru’s support to the proposed dialogue between the Venezuelan government and the opposition, “As part of this new orientation, it is good news that the dialogue process between the opposition and the government is reactivated with the Norwegian mediation, in Mexico City.”
During the first few days of the inauguration of Pedro Castillo as president, a few more assertive statements were made by the new government in relation to Venezuela that define a drastically different political position compared to his predecessors, “the policy of the new government will be opposition to blockades and ‘sanctions’.” Clearly opposition to US, Canada and EU policies.
In yet another significant statement, Mr. Béjar revealed a more socialist goal that is the constant demand of many nations, “Our concern is that the rights of marginalised people are respected, not only in Venezuela, but in Perú and many other countries, and that the level of social welfare improves.”
This political position is quite a turn around from the previous Kuczynski government. It is one that is welcome by the Venezuelan government.
In the larger regional context, the disintegration of the “Lima Group” is directly related to a re-birth of the Latin America anti-imperialist left, and implies a strengthening of integration and cooperation of Latin American and Caribbean countries, based on unity, respect and solidarity. This is a process that cannot be delayed. Following the inauguration of the new government of Luis Arce, Bolivian Foreign Affairs Minister Rogelio Mayta stated it quite clearly, “A united Latin America is not only possible, it is urgent”.
Such integrationist bodies do exist like the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) and the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR), among others. Canada and the US are not members of these organizations and they should not be because their imperial aim is the antithesis of cooperation and solidarity.
However, Canada has a representative to the CARICOM who was largely praised for Canada’s “financial contributions” to the region. This runs opposite Canada’s nefarious military “contributions” in the CARICOM member State, Haiti. Canada’s presence in the region can only be interpreted as a Trojan horse in the internal affairs of the member States. The US, on the other hand, has just donated 5.5 million doses of Pfizer vaccines to the CARICOM as a “humanitarian” gesture.
Venezuela is not a member of CARICOM but has received the important regional reaffirmation of “non-interference and non-intervention in the affairs of states” as established in the OAS Charter. On the contrary, Venezuela is a strong member of CELAC and UNASUR. That might explain why Canada and the US aim to wipe out any vestige of the Bolivarian Revolution and all those organizations that were inspired by Hugo Chavez’s anti-imperialist vision of Socialism of the 21st Century. Venezuelans stand tall and resist because they are on the right side of history.