GATINEAU, Quebec (AP) — Canada and its Western Hemisphere allies called on the rest of the democratic world Thursday to help bring stability to Venezuela as it struggles with an exodus of citizens amid economic collapse under a president they deem illegitimate.
Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne said each country needs to bring new momentum in the quest for the Venezuelan people to democracy. He spoke during a meeting of the Lima Group, which includes Canada and about a dozen Western Hemisphere countries.
Canada hosted the gathering of foreign ministers from the coalition, minus the United States, which are trying to solve the Venezuela crisis.
Canada last hosted the Lima Group one year ago, a meeting that issued a call to Venezuela's military to peacefully switch sides to the opposition, though Venezuelan military leaders have stood by President Nicolas Maduro.
"We are looking for a joint vision for the participation of the international community,'' Peruvian Foreign Minister Gustavo Meza-Cuadra said Thursday through a Spanish interpreter. "The only way to return democracy to Venezuela and overcome the crisis is to ensure that there are presidential and parliamentary elections that are free, fair and transparent and inclusive."
The meeting comes amid a renewed push for a new presidential election in Venezuela, one aimed at ousting Maduro.
Canada and dozens of other countries recognize Juan Guaidó, the head of the opposition-controlled congress, as Venezuela's legitimate leader. They consider Maduro as an illegitimate president, contending he stole Venezuela's last election in 2018.
Guaido is not at the meeting at the Canadian Museum of History across the Ottawa River from Parliament Hill, but was recently in Ottawa as part of a multi-country tour of Europe and the U.S. seeking to bolster support for this democracy-building efforts.
"His international tour clearly demonstrated how strongly the world supports a return to democracy in Venezuela," Champagne said.
The United Nations estimates 6 million Venezuelans will have fled their country by the year's end, as its economic, health and education systems collapse.