Latin America & Caribbean

Canada expels Venezuela diplomat in tit-for-tat move

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro speaks at the closing ceremony of the XVI Political Council of the Bolivarian Alliance for the People of Our Americas (ALBA) at the Convention Palace in Havana, on December 14, 2017 Image copyright AFP
Image caption President Maduro is expected to run for re-election next year

Canada has announced it is expelling Venezuela's ambassador to Ottawa, Wilmer Barrientos Fernández, and its charge d'affaires, Ángel Herrera.

Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland said the move was in retaliation for the expulsion of its most senior diplomat from Caracas over the weekend.

Venezuela had accused Canada of meddling in its internal affairs.

Canada has criticised the government of President Nicolás Maduro over its human rights record.

More than 120 people were killed during months of anti-government protests earlier this year.

"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," said Ms Freeland in a statement.

"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."

Ms Freeland said Mr Barrientos was already abroad and would not be allowed to return, while Mr Herrera had been asked to leave.

'Rude interference'

Canada had already imposed sanctions on senior Venezuelan officials in a move which angered the Venezuelan government.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Venezuela accused Mr Kowalik (left) of taking orders from the Trump administration

The head of Venezuela's powerful Constituent Assembly, Delcy Rodríguez, announced on Saturday it was declaring Canada's charge d'affaires to Caracas, Craig Kowalik, persona non grata.

Ms Rodríguez accused Mr Kowalik of "permanent and insistent, rude and vulgar interference in the internal affairs of Venezuela".

It also expelled the Brazilian ambassador, Ruy Pereira, over the alleged violation of the rule of law by its government.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption More than 120 people were killed during months of anti-government protests this year

The US imposed sanctions on Mr Maduro and the Trump administration labelled him a "dictator".

The opposition has accused Mr Maduro and his predecessor, the late Hugo Chávez, of destroying the country's economy with their socialist policies.

Venezuela has one of the world's highest inflation rates and for years has suffered from a shortage of basic goods, including medicines.

Mr Maduro's six-year term ends in 2019. He is expected to stand for another term in elections scheduled for next year.

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