Canada has temporarily shut its embassy in Venezuela, saying President Nicolas Maduro's government is refusing to renew visas for Canadian diplomats. Ottawa is also reviewing the status of Venezuelan envoys to Canada.
Canada on Sunday announced that it was suspending operations at its embassy in Venezuela over the government's refusal to accredit Canadian diplomats who had voiced criticism of the political situation in the country.
Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland said in a statement that Ottawa had "no choice" but to suspend operations.
"The regime has taken steps to limit the ability of foreign embassies to function in Venezuela, particularly those advocating for the restoration of democracy in Venezuela," she said.
"Unfortunately, at the end of this month, Canadian diplomats in Venezuela will no longer be in a position to obtain diplomatic accreditation under the Maduro regime," she added.
Canada has led the push to recognize Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido as the country's rightful leader
Freeland also said Canada is "evaluating the status of Venezuelan diplomats appointed by the Maduro regime to Canada."
Speaking out against Maduro
Canada has been at the forefront of an international effort to recognize the Venezuelan opposition leader and head of the National Assembly, Juan Guaido, as the country's rightful leader.
In January, Canada — along with the United States and major Latin American powers — recognized Guaido's claim to be acting president.
Venezuela is currently in the midst of a political and social crisis, as the country suffers from hyperinflation and massive economic contraction. Acute shortages of food and medicine have led 3 million people to flee the country in recent years.
More than 50 countries now recognize Guaido as the oil-rich nation's interim head of state. However, Maduro and the ruling Socialist Party continue to control state institutions, including the military, state oil company PDVSA and the central bank.
Canada said it would continue to provide consular assistance to Canadians in Venezuela through its embassy in Colombia.
sri/amp (AP, AFP)