Canada suspends operations at embassy in Venezuela

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TORONTO (AP) — Canada suspended operations at its embassy in Venezuela on Sunday, saying the regime of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro regime would not renew visas for its diplomats.

Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland said in a statement that Canada had no choice.

"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," Freeland 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, and their visas will expire. Therefore, we are left with no choice but to temporarily suspend our operations at the Embassy of Canada to Venezuela, effective immediately."

Freeland said Canada is evaluating the status of Venezuelan diplomats appointed by the Maduro regime to Canada.

Canada has played a key role within the Lima Group, which is made up of nearly a dozen Latin American nations and Canada. It has led the push to recognize opposition lawmaker Juan Guaidó as Venezuela's rightful leader and seeks ways to remove Maduro. Freeland said Canada will continue to speak out against the Maduro regime.

Freeland is attending a Lima Group meeting in New York on Monday.

The U.S. withdrew its remaining embassy staff from Venezuela in March, citing a deteriorating situation.

Venezuela is in the throes of a historic political and social crisis marked by shortages of food and medicine that has driven 3 million people to flee the country in recent years.

Canada will continue to provide consular assistance to Canadians in Venezuela through its embassy in Colombia. For several months, Canada has advised Canadians to avoid all travel to Venezuela.

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