Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro gestures during a special session of the National Constituent Assembly to take oath as re-elected President at the Palacio Federal Legislativo in Caracas, Venezuela May 24, 2018. (Marco Bello/REUTERS)

Canada imposes further sanctions on Venezuela

Canada has imposed further sanctions on key figures in the government of the newly re-elected Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro in response to what Ottawa has called “the illegitimate and anti-democratic presidential elections” held in Venezuela on May 20.

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland announced Wednesday targeted sanctions against an additional 14 individuals Ottawa accused of being responsible for the deterioration of democracy in Venezuela.

“These sanctions send a clear message that the Maduro regime’s anti-democratic behaviour has consequences,” Freeland said in a statement.

“Today’s announcement is evidence of our commitment to defending democracy and human rights around the world and our rejection of Venezuela’s fraudulent presidential elections.”

Crimes against humanity

An injured man receives help during a strike called to protest against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s government in Caracas, Venezuela July 26, 2017. (Carlos Garcia Rawlins/REUTERS)

The sanctions announced by Freeland came a day after the release of the report by the Panel of Independent International Experts on possible crimes against humanity in Venezuela.

The report concluded that “there are reasonable grounds, that satisfy the standard of proof required by Article 53 of the Rome Statute, for considering that acts to which the civilian population of Venezuela was subjected to dating back to at least February 12, 2014, constitute crimes against humanity, in accordance with Article 7 of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.”

The report will provide valuable information to support the preliminary examination into the situation in Venezuela, opened by the Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court [ICC] earlier this year, Freeland said.

“We are appalled, though not surprised, by the evidence the panel found supporting the allegation that crimes against humanity have been committed in Venezuela,” Freeland said in a statement.

“It is because of the Maduro regime’s ongoing abuse of its people and attacks on democracy that Canada has taken a series of punitive actions, including imposing targeted sanctions.”

More sanctions

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland makes an announcement at the National Press Theatre in Ottawa on Wednesday, May 23, 2018. (Sean Kilpatrick/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

The latest round of Canadian sanctions under the Special Economic Measures Act complements sanctions targeting 19 Venezuelan officials, including President Maduro and family members of the late President Hugo Chavez, announced by Freeland in November 2017 under the Justice for Victims of Corrupt Foreign Officials Act.

Following the May 20 elections, where Maduro was re-elected for another six-year term after taking 68 percent of votes amid low voter turnout of 46 per cent, Freeland announced that Canada joined its partners in the Lima Group and downgraded its diplomatic relations with Caracas.

As a result, the Canadian embassy in Venezuela will be headed by a chargé d’affaires rather than a full-fledged ambassador, Freeland said.

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