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Canada, Latin American leaders work on Venezuela aid

By Renzo Pipoli
Canada, Latin American leaders work on Venezuela aid
Brazil, Peru, Canada, and Argentina foreign ministers arrived in Ottawa for a Monday February 4 meeting. They plan to increase pressure on Venezuela's President Maduro to leave power and consolidate support for the leader of the National AssemblyJuan Guaido. Photo by Andre Pichette/EPA EFE

Feb. 4 (UPI) -- The foreign ministers of several Latin American countries gathered for a meeting in Canada that included discussion of aid for Venezuela requested by National Assembly leader Juan Guaido.

The countries offer support for Guaido, who has led efforts urging Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro to step down from power. Maduro is supported by the country's military, but his claim of an electoral victory last year has not been regarded as credible by a large political opposition, as well as several other countries and international organizations.

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A statement by the Canadian Global Affairs office said it was contributing nearly $53 million "toward an integrated humanitarian and development response, to support the people affected by the crisis in Venezuela, as well as the neighboring countries receiving an influx of refugees."

A statement late last week by the Peruvian Foreign Ministry said that foreign ministers from Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Panama, Paraguay, Peru and St.Lucie agreed to sign declarations of support for Guaido.

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Guaido has said he became interim leader legally after the National Assembly declared the presidency of Maduro vacant. This paved the way for the leader of Parliament, Guaido, to assume the interim leadership under constitutional law, while new elections are organized as soon as possible.

Maduro, who on January 10 was sworn in as president for a second term, is not recognized as the legitimate president by multiple countries, including the United States and several in Europe and the Baltic States area. However, Russia, Mexico, Nicaragua, North Korea and China are among the nations that recognized the legitimacy of his second mandate.

Guaido's efforts are centered on trying to convince the country's military, which still supports Maduro, that an amnesty be offered to Maduro and those in the military that continue to support him.

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Guaido plans to accept the aid from Canada despite the opposition of Maduro's government.

"The first stage of the humanitarian aid is to take care of people in risk of death," Guaido has said of more than 300,000 people who urgently need food and medicine.

There was a massive demonstration of Guaido supporters on Saturday. Maduro's government also organized marches during the weekend.

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Guaido, a 35-year old engineer, said that there will be calls for a bigger demonstration the day aid is expected to be taken to the Venezuelan borders.

"There are possibilities it would be confiscated, they may want to steal it, we are asking the Venezuelan people for a big march to protect the humanitarian aid," Guaido said.

The Venezuelan National Assembly in a regular session on Monday approved the aid for Venezuela because of a lack of food and medicine. The National Assembly, won by the opposition in undisputed elections in December 2015, is led by officials who oppose Maduro.

Sometime before Wednesday, aid is expected to be distributed in the Colombian city of Cucuta, near the Venezuelan border, with help from the Red Cross -- though there is no date set for delivery of aid for Venezuela itself.

Human rights groups have reported Venezuelan jails are filled with those that oppose Maduro, and, of late, political violence has turned Venezuela into the Latin American country with the greatest homicide rate.

Nearly three million Venezuelans have left the country in recent days amid shortages of food and medicine, according to the refugee agency of the United Nations. Most of the refugees have sought help in other Latin American countries.

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