TORONTO (AP) — Canada is moving to expel a Venezuelan diplomat from the country and strip his credentials in retaliation after his Canadian counterpart was kicked out of the South American nation.
The latest developments come after months of sanctions and criticism by Canada against Venezuela, which two days ago declared Canada's charge d'affaires persona non grata. They stripped him of his diplomatic credentials and barred him from returning to the country.
Officials from Canada and the United States have been increasing critical of President Nicolas Maduro's government for consolidating power and isolating the country's opposition parties ahead of next year's presidential elections.
Venezuelan national constituent assembly president Delcy Rodriguez accused Canadian diplomat Craig Kowalik of meddling in the country's politics and tweeting "rude and vulgar" comments about the nation.
Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland said Monday that Venezuela's ambassador to Canada, who had already been withdrawn by his government to protest Canadian sanctions, was no longer welcome in the country in response.
She also declared the Venezuelan charge d'affaires persona non grata.
"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," Freeland said in a statement released on Christmas Day.
"We will continue to work with our partners in the region ... to apply pressure on the anti-democratic Maduro regime and restore the rights of the Venezuelan people."
Venezuela drew international condemnation on Wednesday when its pro-government constitutional assembly effectively stripped three of the country's most influential opposition parties of the right to participate in next year's presidential election.
It followed a threat by Maduro to punish the opposition groups for boycotting recent mayoral elections, protesting what they considered an unfair, rigged system run by a dictatorship.
Canada has already imposed sanctions against 40 key members of Maduro's regime since September.
Freeland said the officials had been implicated in "corruption and gross human rights abuses."
Economic sanctions are also being carried out by the Lima Group, a body made up of Canada and 11 other Latin American countries.
Freeland called Venezuela's decision to expel the Canadian diplomat a typical move by the Maduro regime, saying that efforts to restore democracy in the country have been consistently undermined.