Canada on Monday ordered Venezuela’s ambassador and charge d’affaires to leave, escalating a row two days after its top diplomat at the Canadian embassy in Venezuela was kicked out by President Nicolas Maduro’s regime.
“In response to this move by the Maduro regime, I am announcing that the Venezuelan ambassador to Canada… is no longer welcome in Canada.
“I am also declaring the Venezuelan charge d’affaires persona non grata,” Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland said in a statement.
She noted that Wilmer Omar Barrientos Fernandez — Venezuela’s ambassador — “had already been withdrawn by the Venezuelan government to protest Canadian sanctions against Venezuelan officials implicated in corruption and gross human rights abuses.”
The tit-for-tat response follows Venezuela’s announcement on Saturday that Craig Kowalik — Canada’s charge d’affaires in the embassy in Caracas — and Brazilian ambassador Ruy Pereira were no longer welcome.
Kowalik was accused of “nagging [and] constant rude and offensive interference in Venezuela’s domestic affairs,” according to Delcy Rodriguez — a Venezuelan official who heads a powerful body of Maduro loyalists known as the Constituent Assembly.
Pereira was described as the representative of an illegitimate government in Brazil — a stance Caracas has taken since conservative Brazilian President Michel Temer replaced impeached leftist president Dilma Rousseff.
Venezuela has riposted fiercely against growing international condemnation of Maduro’s tightening hold on power this year.
Canada, the United States, Europe, and most Latin American nations have denounced what they call the trampling of democracy and human rights in the once-rich South American nation, which is now on the brink of default.
On Friday, Canada imposed fresh sanctions on Maduro and members of his regime for alleged rights violations and corruption.
Freeland said Venezuela’s expulsion of Kowalik “is typical of the Maduro regime, which has consistently undermined all efforts to restore democracy and to help the Venezuelan people.”
“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,” she said.