Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had a telephone conversation with Venezuelan President Juan Guaidó on Tuesday. Trudeau’s office said Guaidó “conveyed his commitment to holding free and fair elections as soon as possible, in line with the Venezuelan constitution.”
“Canada remains committed to free and fair elections in Venezuela, and we’re working with the Lima Group to strengthen international support for Venezuelans,” Trudeau said on social media after the phone call.
The Lima Group is a coalition of Latin American states and Canada organized in 2017 to find a resolution to the Venezuelan political crisis. The group has expressed support for Guaidó and urged the Venezuelan military to stop propping up socialist dictator Nicolás Maduro. The Lima Group’s February declaration of support for Guaidó was not signed by three of its members, namely Guyana, St. Lucia, and Mexico.
Guaidó is working hard to cultivate stronger support from the U.S., Canada, and organizations like the Lima Group after his recent bid to oust Maduro came up short. On Monday, he sent a letter to the U.S. government through his envoy Carlos Vecchio asking for a meeting with the U.S. Southern Command to coordinate “strategic and operational planning.”
The possibility of American military intervention in Venezuela seems remote at the moment, although the Trump administration insists it has n options have been ruled out, but Guaido might be hoping to rattle the military leaders whose muscle is keeping Maduro in power.
Guaido’s assurances to Trudeau that he has no intention of becoming a dictator himself are essential to projecting the image of solid international democratic support for the interim president. He also has to prevent Maduro from concluding his position is strong enough to get away with arresting opposition leaders or even shutting down the Venezuelan parliament, the National Assembly, a move Guaido warned Maduro is contemplating on Wednesday.
As for Trudeau, he could use a break from the bad political news back home. His Liberal Party is now well behind the Conservative opposition in polls with elections coming up, and Trudeau is running neck-and-neck with Conservative Andrew Sheer for prime minister. A big come-from-behind win for democracy in Venezuela would help Trudeau recapture some of his idealistic aura and get past scandals, gaffes, and policy stumbles that make him look more like a standard-issue cynical politician.
Trudeau’s support for the Venezuelan opposition is a significant change for the Canadian prime minister, whose family was long supportive of Fidel Castro in Cuba, the model for the regimes of Nicolás Maduro and his predecessor Hugo Chávez. Justin Trudeau praised Castro as a “remarkable leader” so effusively after his death in 2016 that rumors sprang up about Trudeau being Castro’s secret love child. (Granted, rumors and conspiracy theories do not require much fuel to rocket across the Internet these days.)
Trudeau’s enthusiasm for the Cuban regime, key supporters of Maduro, remained unhealthy long after Castro’s death, leading the Canadian prime minister to suggest at one point that Cuba could be the key to saving the world from North Korean nuclear aggression. He has unsuccessfully attempted to persuade the Cubans to join the call for free and fair elections in Venezuela, but the Cubans remain firmly behind the Maduro dictatorship, even as Cuba begins rationing food because Venezuelan oil money can no longer support the regime in Havana.