On February 21st 2019, Ben Rowswell, President and Research Director of the Canadian International Council, provided testimony to the Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade. He explained how the embassy determined that a very large majority of Venezuelan citizens support the National Assembly in their dispute with the Maduro regime. You can find his written testimony below. Attached HERE is a link to a video of his testimony.
Testimony to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee
February 21, 2019
Today we will begin under the authorization to examine such issues as may arise from time to time relating to foreign relations and international trade generally. Under this mandate, the committee will hear today testimonies on the present situation in Venezuela.
The committee heard witnesses back in 2016 and 2017 about the political situation and the growing economic crisis in that country. Two reports were published, one in June 2016 and one in July 2017, which generated a government response that was tabled in the Senate on March 20, 2018.
The committee has mentioned it would continue to welcome opportunities to keep apprised of the developments in Venezuela, the challenges facing the Venezuelan people, and the implications for the region. Accordingly, we are meeting today.
I’m pleased to welcome on behalf of the committee Mr. Ben Rowswell, President and Research Director, Canadian International Council. And by video conference Mr. Michael Camilleri, Director, Peter D. Bell Rule of Law Program, Inter-American Dialogue and Mr. Sébastien Dubé, Professor, Universidad del Norte – Barranquilla, Colombia.
Welcome to the committee. We have short biographies that are being circulated, but we want the maximum time for presentations and questions and answers for the senators.
Welcome to the committee, Mr. Rowswell. The floor is yours.
(French follows – Mr. Rowswell: Merci beaucoup. C’est un honneur…)
(après anglais — Chair: Mr. Rowselll, the floor is yours.)
Ben Rowswell, président et directeur de recherche, Conseil international du Canada:
Merci beaucoup. C’est un honneur d’être parmi vous aujourd’hui. C’est un moment historique pour le Venezuela, mais aussi pour la politique étrangère du Canada.
(anglais suit — M. Rowswell cont.: In the face of a profound…)
(Following French – Mr. Rowswell — la politique étrangère du Canada.)
In the face of a profound political crisis in Venezuela, Canada has called for the restoration of popular sovereignty in that country. In doing so, I believe that our government is articulating
an approach to democracy promotion that is uniquely Canadian. From my observation, this approach is based on three fundamental principles.
The first is that sovereignty rests ultimately, not with governments, but with citizens of each country. The second is that the role of foreign governments, like Canada, is to follow local actors and not to lead them in a democratic movement. Third is when we do choose to support local democracy movements, we do so with the countries of the region so there’s a collective and multilateral approach.
This approach has led the Government of Canada to stand with the National Assembly, the last remaining democratically elected body representing Venezuelans as that assembly laid out a path to putting citizens back in charge of their country. That legislature designated Juan Guaidó as interim president while elections are organized. Canada joined with most of Latin America in supporting that strategy.
Four weeks later, this crisis grinds on. Canadians have begun to debate this approach, and I believe that’s entirely appropriate given the stakes for Venezuela, given the stakes for the hemisphere, and given the stakes for Canadian foreign policy.
Popular sovereignty means that the people of Venezuela should determine their own fate. But how do we know what Venezuelans want? This is the contribution I would like to make to the debate this morning because I believe it is possible for us, as Canadians, to listen to the people of Venezuela and to make a judgment about what they are telling us, even if it differs radically from what their autocratic ruler wants us to believe.
I spent close to four years in Venezuela. As Canada’s ambassador, I led a team of talented professionals whose job it was to listen to Venezuelans and to make sense of what we heard.
How did we, as Canadian diplomats, assess what Venezuelan citizens were telling us?
We had a variety of methods. Let me start with polls. They are not easy to run in a repressive country, but public opinion polls are still feasible in Venezuela, and we followed many of them. Our observation of the many polls we followed was that by 2015, support for Maduro had dropped to between 15 and 25 per cent and never rose beyond that with opposition to Maduro consistently in the 60s, 70s and sometimes even 80s. The most credible firm is Datanalisis and most recent poll in November 2018 found that 63 per cent of Venezuelans want Nicolas Maduro removed from office.
Venezuelans are also heavy users of social media. This presents another way for us to assess what most of them think. If you analyze publicly available data from Twitter and Facebook, you can see that the majority of accounts supporting the government are being directed in a coordinated campaign, while those supporting the National Assembly are dispersed and organic.
But the principal method by which we listened to Venezuelans was by using the oldest tool in the diplomatic handbook, we talked to hundreds and hundreds of them.
Our embassy made a determined effort to engage Venezuelans of every walk of life, of every political opinion, of every socioeconomic class. We went out of our way to engage working-class
Venezuelans, since they are the hardest group traditionally for most diplomats to engage with. We made an effort to visit every barrio, every shantytown to make sure we knew how the poor and marginalized felt, not just the privileged.
When I first arrived in 2014, we found a country that was still polarized between Chavistas and opposition supporters now led by Maduro. But those divisions faded quickly as the economic crisis deepened. As residents of these poor neighbourhoods found it harder and harder to put food on the plate, as they found public hospitals more and more bereft of medicine, sympathy for the government fell. Those suffering this economic calamity were clear on who they blame.
It’s not difficult to understand. If Canada suffered the loss of half of its economy, if maternal mortality started to double and triple, if the average weight of Canadians dropped by 20 or 30 pounds, most Canadians would hold the government of Justin Trudeau to account.
So we started to delve deeper and deeper into areas where Chavismo used to reign supreme. Barinas, the state where Chavez was born. 23 De Enero, the neighbourhood where Chavez used to cast his ballots on TV at election time. La Vega, Valle, Coche, Antimano, the famous slums of western Caracas. It became harder and harder to find working-class Venezuelans that support Nicolas Maduro.
When there were protests, we sent embassy representatives to both the anti-government and pro-government rallies. By 2017, the anti-government protests were huge, spanning dozens of city blocks, filled with people from every age group, every profession, rich and poor. The pro-government marches were small, stage-managed affairs held in downtown blocks where tall buildings prevented TV cameras from seeing empty streets just one block away.
When we interviewed Venezuelans about what motivated them to march, those supporting the National Assembly would talk of their love of country and willingness to risk tear gas to make the country better for their children. I’ll never forget one participant in a pro-government march who told me she participated because a party official managing her government-supplied apartment intimated she would be evicted if she didn’t. It frightened her to appear in public, in a red t-shirt of Chavismo, supporting a president that her fellow citizens increasingly blamed for the spike in infant mortality. But she needed to keep a roof over the heads of her own children.
As Canada’s criticisms of growing human rights abuses grew louder and more frequent, many Venezuelans began to thank us for the stand we were taking. In one visit to the Foreign Ministry, all of the diplomatic corps was called to hear Foreign Minister Rodriguez criticize the diplomatic corps for the international criticism that the regime was beginning to endure. After the meeting I made my way back to the embassy car and some of her more junior employees approached me to thank me discreetly for what Canada was saying about human rights in that country. The risks to their careers must have been immense.
By the time I left Venezuela in 2017, it was no longer a polarized country. It was increasingly united in the desire for change. This is not a country divided between two equal camps of citizens. The division lies between the vast majority of the population and a regime that population rejects.
Let us continue to debate how we can support Venezuelans. Let us debate what measures will help them to restore their popular sovereignty peacefully and constitutionally. Let us debate which other countries we should align with, or not, in supporting them. Let us not doubt what Venezuelans want. They are loud and they are united in their insistence for change. They support their democratically elected leaders in the National Assembly.
Stability will only return to Venezuelan once it has a government whose legitimacy is accepted by its citizens. We hasten that day, not be second-guessing Venezuelans, but by standing with them.
Thank you. We’ll go to questions.
(French follows — Senator Massicotte: Merci à vous trois d’être parmi…)
(après anglais – The Chair : We’ll go to questions.)
Le sénateur Massicotte:
Merci à vous trois d’être parmi nous ce matin. C’est une situation qui nous touche énormément en tant que citoyens du monde, une situation qui cause beaucoup de souffrance. C’est un problème très, très grave.
Ma question est : qu’est-ce qu’on fait à ce point-ci, monsieur Rowswell? M. Dubé pense que notre intervention n’a pas eu d’impact important ce qui risque d’annuler nos efforts.
Jusqu’à quel point devrions-nous, comme pays, comme Canadiens, tenter d’aider le peuple de façon plus concrète, surtout si Maduro résiste à toute participation volontaire? Et quel commentaire auriez-vous à faire au sujet des États-Unis, du président Trump qui, il y a deux ou
trois jours, a fait un discours dans lequel il mentionne qu’il gère potentiellement la situation qui pourrait mener à une conséquence militaire?
Et à quel point la situation dépasse-t-elle notre autorité, en tant que pays, de respecter la souveraineté de ce pays?
Merci beaucoup de votre question. Je crois que M. Camilleri a établi un agenda très intéressant avec ses cinq points. J’aimerais en renforcer quelques-uns et en ajouter d’autres.
La chose la plus urgente à faire est de régler le manque de nourriture et de médicaments, les besoins humanitaires de la population. C’est en effet la priorité de cette fin de semaine, avec l’action que mène l’Assemblée nationale.
Je crois que le Canada a déjà fait une contribution importante de 53 millions de dollars, et la coordination de la livraison de cette aide est une urgence extrême.
Il se peut que l’on commence à établir un plan international à plus long terme afin de s’attaquer aux besoins économiques d’un pays qui a tellement perdu lors des dernières années. Cela pourrait aussi offrir un incitatif aux dirigeants qui sont autour de Maduro, pour leur démontrer qu’il y a vraiment de l’aide sérieuse qui est offerte, pas seulement de l’aide humanitaire à court terme, mais aussi un plan de quelques années avec des milliards de dollars qui seront versés au Venezuela afin d’aider à la reconstruction de son pays.
Il est aussi important de garder l’unité de l’approche diplomatique. Le Groupe de Lima a effectivement établi une position avec les autres pays de l’hémisphère qui représentent la très grande majorité de la population de l’Amérique latine, et les autres tentatives, comme celui du Groupe de contact, sont les bienvenues, mais seulement si les populations suivent le leadership de la région et si elles réussissent à avoir l’appui de la population du Venezuela.
Il n’est pas très utile d’avoir des négociations si la grande majorité des citoyens dans les rues du Venezuela n’accepte pas les résultats de ces négociations. Il est important que ces négociations gagnent l’appui de la population, et cette dernière a été assez claire sur ses conditions.
La menace d’une intervention militaire va à l’encontre d’une transition démocratique. Je crois que le Canada a bien fait d’écarter cette possibilité, et le Groupe de Lima a bien fait d’y renoncer lors de la déclaration faite à Ottawa, le 4 novembre. La menace d’une intervention militaire serait non seulement une option violente qui résulterait dans la perte de vies, mais produirait aussi probablement un gouvernement qui manque de légitimité dans le pays.
Je crois que le bilan des transitions de gouvernements, accompagnées par l’intervention militaire, n’est pas très positif à l’échelle internationale.
Mais il y a une autre raison, à court terme, pour laquelle ces menaces d’intervention militaire sont négatives. Il y aura une transition de pouvoir seulement s’il y a une division parmi les autres dirigeants autour de Maduro, mais la meilleure façon de renforcer leur unité et leur solidarité est de faire face à la possibilité d’une intervention humanitaire.
Il se peut que les déclarations du président Trump aident Nicolas Maduro à rester au pouvoir. Il est important pour nous de continuer d’écarter et même de dénoncer cette option afin d’essayer de l’enlever de la table de négociations.
Thank you to all our presenters this morning.
I have three questions. I really appreciated your impassioned presentation. I know this situation must be very painful for you to be watching, but I can feel some hope there, Ambassador Rowswell.
My first question is also about aid and, in particular, if either of you know, Canada’s plans beyond this immediate moment for aid, both in terms of that large refugee population outside of Venezuela and then, hopefully once this blockade is broken, whether there is a solid plan for both the humanitarian as well as the reconstruction and development. I would like to know about that.
I can well imagine, Mr. Camelleri, that it’s not just a Trojan horse they are afraid of; reputationally, Venezuela, to its poor neighbours, has been such a wealthy benefactor in terms of what they have done with the PetroCaribe supports and that sort of thing.
The first question is about aid. I’ll ask the next two in sequence, to give you a chance.
Of course, everybody is worried about loss of life, and violence. Everybody wants a peaceful transition of power, if that can happen. We already know that even though there is some shooting in the streets, it isn’t the kind of shooting-in-the-streets violence. However, there has been violence. Starving people is violent, as is people having to leave their homes and people not having access to livelihood or health care. Poverty is a form of violence already.
I’m sure there is talk about the lesser of all these evils and how long we perpetuate this situation, which is causing so much suffering. I’m curious where that conversation is on those points. H
to work with the folks to ensure a peaceful transition and obviously some kind of an escape valve for Maduro? I know there are probably diplomatic things you cannot say about that backdoor escape valve for Maduro out of the country to somewhere else so that this can happen. I would like to hear about that.
Finally, this is not just about Venezuela. This point, Mr. Rowswell, that you mentioned about our Canadian approach — and I know our chair knows I have a question about this — where sovereignty rests with the citizens as opposed to the government, and that you’re following the lead of the citizens, and that we are doing it in concert with the priorities of those in the region, I’m a supporter of that. However, in the case of Venezuela, you have somebody who is elected to the National Assembly. So you have a potential and a legitimate other leader, a popular leader of the people, who is getting support, and you have done your polls, et cetera.
In other places in the region, such as Haiti, where you see popular uprisings — some of which are linked, actually, to the money that came from Venezuela to the country, but not exclusively — we don’t necessarily have that clear, legitimate other leader in place. What is the approach? I see this applying very nicely actually to the Venezuelan situation. How do we carry this out into other environments? I’m not asking you to speak specifically to Haiti.
We have other questioners, so I’m mindful of the time. You have asked a lot of very valid questions. We have two responders.
They don’t have to both respond to all the questions.
The Chair: We always encourage reflections after, and if you can give them to us in writing, we would very much appreciate it. Through all that very valid scenario that Senator Coyle has presented, Mr. Rowswell, I will turn to you first and then I will turn to Mr. Camelleri.
Thank you. Let me address those in reverse order, if I may.
On the applicability of what I’m describing as this Canadian approach to supporting popular sovereignty, I believe it is applicable to other countries in the region, and internationally. In saying that we believe in popular sovereignty, we do believe the country should be sovereign. So that rules out military intervention, which is a violation of popular sovereignty. And then, within that, it’s not that it’s the citizens against the government; it’s that the government is accountable to the citizens.
There are a few things that make the Venezuelan situation unique in the clarity of the situation, with the majority of the citizens clearly rejecting the authority of the government. There has been departure from the constitutional order — a coup d’état, essentially — from the summer of 2017, when Nicolás Maduro imposed a body that was on top of all the rest of the democratically elected bodies of the constitution. A plebiscite was organized that year where 7 million citizens came to polling stations run by the National Assembly to explicitly reject that. In a population of 35 million, that was an absolutely massive demonstration of support. There is that unity among the population. So with those three factors in place, it is possible to say that there is clear leadership from the people of Venezuela, through their elected representatives, that we can then clearly follow.
I don’t know very much about Haiti, but I do think we should place emphasis on the legitimacy of democratically elected actors and on the clarity and constitutionality of the action they propose.
Of course, the principle source of violence in Venezuela is criminal. Caracas is either the first, second or third most dangerous city in the world, depending on which year and how you measure it, with a murder rate that is something like 40 or 50 times what it is in most major Canadian cities.
There is some political violence. It’s kind of striking that there isn’t more political violence, given the high levels of criminal violence and number of guns in that society.
In the period that I was there, there was violence during protests. We tried to ascertain the source of the violence as much as possible. In general, we found that somewhere between 60 and 70 per cent of the deaths during those protests were caused by excessive use of force by security forces against participants in the marches. There were a small number of cases in which protesters themselves responded violently to tear gas attacks or to other attacks. So neither side was completely free of blame, but the vast majority of the violence was being committed by those who had the mandate to prevent violence from happening in the first place.
There are certain things the security forces could do to prevent that from happening in the future. Their rules of engagement are far below international standards for when a soldier is allowed to open fire on a protester. There are quite well-established international regulations, and the Venezuelan armed forces do not follow those rules of engagement.
I do believe there should be mechanisms between the security forces and the National Assembly to try to build confidence and establish in advance what protocols might exist if there is an outbreak of violence. That would be a useful topic for negotiations.
Finally, on aid, very quickly, I am not an economist. I do remember hearing at the time that I was in Venezuela that estimates about the size of a reconstruction package for Venezuela would probably be in excess of $30 billion. So putting that size of an aid package together would require pretty extensive negotiations.
One principal obstacle up until now is that the Maduro government rejects the legitimacy of the international institutions that tend to organize those kinds of aid packages, favouring instead bilateral deals with Russia and China which actually impose far harsher conditions on loans, and yet it’s prevented a starting point to the negotiations of how you organize a $30 billion aid package.
I’ll be pretty quick. Ben Rowswell, I have known you a long time. Your service in Venezuela is a great credit to your country. I wanted to put that on the record.
I have three quick points. Let us look at a post or at a transition scenario. Guaidó is the interim president. He is charged under the Constitution with, in fact, ensuring that elections take place. Is there a role here for a regional organization, such as the OAS? The OAS has been debating and Venezuela for many years, certainly when I was there two decades ago, it was a big theme. Is there a role or has the OAS marginalized itself because of internal divisions, whether it’s the Caribbean states who rely on the PetroCaribe program or others? So that’s one.
The second is the other pro-Maduro actors, and here I’m thinking particularly of Cuba and Russia. Will they have a role to play in a transition-type scenario or are they going to resist to the bitter end, as it’s often said?
My third point, and that perhaps is more for you, Mr. Camelleri, and I admire the work that the Inter-American Dialogue does. There has been an exodus of Venezuelans for decades now, and the richer Venezuelans left and most of them went to the United States and they are in Miami and other large cities. Are they a significant group in sort of a transition scenario? Or are they exerting pressure, shall we say, the way the Cuban community has in Miami over the decades? Thank you.
Thank you very much, Senator Boehm.
The role for the OAS is inescapable, in my opinion, because of the various regional groupings of countries in Latin America. There is only one that has the depth of technical expertise. When you’re engaging in a democratic transition in international observation missions, in reconstruction programs, there is expertise in the UN and there is expertise in the U.S. There is no expertise in UNASUR or even the Lima Group which is just a coordinating mechanism between foreign ministries. So once there is a clear path forward and once there is a degree of regional consensus beyond the Lima Group, then I think the OAS will have to be the actor that will actually implement division. It doesn’t seem to be able, given the divisions that you mentioned, to be able to generate the common vision; but once that vision is accomplished elsewhere, they should be the ones that execute and implement.
On Cuba, I’m not a Cuba expert by any means. But certainly from exposure to many debates about the role that Cuba played in Venezuela, it does appear that the two governments see themselves as a survival mechanism. The survival of one is directly linked to the survival of the others. It seems to me that it might be useful for other countries in the region, Canada certainly, and if we could convince the United States as well to provide reassurances to the Cuban government that what is happening in Venezuela won’t happen in Cuba.
The three-point approach that I laid out, for example, I think would apply — when applied to Cuba, would not lead Canada down any kind approach of trying to seek political change in Cuba, because of the absence of a wide mass movement of Cuban citizens that are calling for political change. If we’re to follow the Cubans, then we won’t be pursuing any kind of political change. So any reassurances that could be provided to the Cubans might help them in listening to the voices of Venezuelans instead of backing Nicolas Maduro.
I’m going to ask the senators to put their questions. I’m going to ask our witnesses to respond perhaps as succinctly as you provide us maybe some further written responses. As you can see, this is a very complex situation, and the interest here in this committee has always been to do something positive if we can for the people of Venezuela. Of course we have to touch the politics within that. So I think all these issues are extremely important, and anything you can do to give us more information would be helpful.
I would really like all of the senators to have an opportunity to put their questions, and whatever you think is the most that we hear respond now and respond later in a written form if you can.
Thanks to you both for hugely insightful presentations. Mr. Camilleri, thank you for sharing your five recommendations with us, which are really thoughtful.
My question is to Mr. Rowswell. I want to look back. We spent a lot of time looking forward. Are there notable precedents for the approach Canada is taking here? I’m comfortable with it. Have we done this before in this fashion, where, and is there anything unusual about Canada’s approach in this case?
You noted the recourse to the notion of popular sovereignty. To what extent, as the country does this, are we resting on the argument that we’re supporting a regionally led initiative?
Bottom line, is there anything unusual about Canada’s approach to this Venezuelan situation right now and are we resting at all on anything we’ve done in the past in similar situations?
(French follows – Senator Saint-Germain – J’aurais une question. Tous les deux, vous avez beaucoup insisté . . .)
(après anglais – Sen. Dean : … in similar situations.)
La sénatrice Saint-Germain: J’aurais une question. Tous les deux, vous avez beaucoup insisté sur l’importance du multilatéral sur tout le groupe de Lima. On n’a pas fait référence au fait que le Mexique et l’Uruguay ont opté conjointement pour la neutralité, de garder des contacts avec les deux parties. Le Mexique, entre autres, n’a pas rompu ses relations diplomatiques. Considérant les relations et l’influence du Mexique sur les États-Unis et de cette neutralité qui a été conservée par les deux pays, auront-ils un rôle important dans cette sortie de crise?
(anglais suit – Sen. Housakos : My question has to do…)
(Following French – Senator Saint-Germain – . . . important dans cette sortie de crise?)
My question has to do with what are the chances or the probabilities of Venezuela falling into a civil war? We see Maduro has a clear grasp for the time being on the military and from our distance it’s difficult to gauge what support he has from the public, but he seems to have some when we listen to the news outlets. Is that polarization serious enough where there might be even a remote chance of the country falling into a civil war?
Again, I’ll do it in reverse order. I believe there’s very little chance of a civil war. A civil war requires two armed groups. All of the arms are on one side of this conflict. The National Assembly has been admirably consistent in advocating for peaceful approaches. There’s no call to arms, no attempt to build a militia, and no fissures within the armed forces. Spectres of a civil war are greatly overblown. I believe they’re actually used by the Maduro government as a way to try to change the political dynamic. I believe we can rest assured that it is unlikely.
There is some chance of political violence, but nothing on the scale that could be called a civil war. The violence we need to worry about is the deaths of tens of thousands of Venezuelans and the economic situation that has been imposed on them.
To Senator Saint-Germain’s question on the Mexican role. Mexico is an incredibly influential country in the region and a close partner of Canada. We should always welcome their role. They’re going to be an essential part of any resolution of a crisis of this magnitude in our shared hemisphere. We should respect their position and pay close attention to it.
I don’t believe neutrality is an accurate way of describing a situation when you’ve got the vast majority of a population demanding political change. It’s not a question of two different political factions. It’s whether we are listening.
(French follows – Mr. Rowswell cont’g. – Ici, nous sommes à l’écoute de la population. Je crois que le Canada . . .)
(après anglais – Mr. Rowswell cont. : It’s whether we are listening.)
Ici, nous sommes à l’écoute de la population. Je crois que le Canada l’est, et en ce moment, je doute que le Mexique soit vraiment à l’écoute de la population du Venezuela. Ce n’est pas pour les critiquer, ils ont une différente tradition dans les affaires étrangères et je pense qu’ils peuvent jouer un rôle important, qui pourrait être de convaincre le régime Maduro d’être à l’écoute de sa propre population. Je doute que le terme neutralité soit indiqué pour cette position.
(anglais suit – Mr. Rowswell cont. : Finally, on the issue of whether there’s anything unusual . . .)
(Following French – Mr. Rowswell cont’g. – . . . indiqué pour cette position.)
Finally, on the issue of whether there’s anything unusual about Canadian policy, I would say this is a highly unusual situation. It’s extremely rare that a country has lost 50 per cent of its economy in the course of five years. It’s extremely rare that you have tens of thousands of people losing their lives due to policies imposed by a government — a man-made economic emergency. It’s extremely rare to have such a massive set of the population coming together to reject the authority of a population.
To the extent that the Canadian response might be unusual as well or the response of the Lima Group in Latin America might be unusual, I think it’s in response to an unusual situation. I do think it’s very much in the traditions of Canadian foreign policy, all the way back to Pearson, who was an ardent defender of democracy, to the role that we played in drafting the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and some of the democratic principles that are at the heart of that, the regional diplomacy we have played in the transition to democracy in Chile and the transition to democracy Peru in 2000.
The policy approach to Venezuela fits within that tradition and I should say was recognized as such by my Latin American counterparts. The Peruvian ambassador to Venezuela would often tell me Canada had played such a positive role in their transition to democracy after the dictatorship of Alberto Fujimori, that perhaps it was time for Canada to play that same kind of role in Venezuela as we had played with diplomats such as Senator Boehm in 2000. I believe there is a tremendous amount of continuity in what the Trudeau government is attempting to do in Venezuela.
We’ve covered an awful lot of ground. I would have wanted to pursue this term of “popular sovereignty.” Originally it was talking about constitutional validity and that what happened within the National Assembly was valid according to law within its own nation but also on international standards. That is a debate you might reflect on and provide some comments to us if you wish.
I want to thank all the senators. Clearly everyone has added to the debate in different perspectives.
We’ve heard a lot. I think the single-most important message that has come out of it is that it is our hemisphere. It does affect us, but it fundamentally has affected, particularly in the last five years, the people of Venezuela in a very dramatic way.
We have had similar situations — I think of Ethiopia many years ago — where you fall from a high point of productivity, health care, et cetera, to a very low point, which they are still trying to recover from.
It is the first time, I think, that we’re seized so graphically with something in our hemisphere, and I’m pleased that we as the Senate, and the Foreign Affairs Committee particularly, are able to shed some light on it and transfer this to the public in Canada to understand more deeply the crisis that is evolving there.
Please, to both of our presenters, any further comments, suggestions or recommendations would be welcomed.
As I indicated at the start, we have continued to follow Venezuela — I must say to the credit of this committee — much earlier than on Parliament Hill. I’m confident that it will continue to be one of our main issues as we go forward.
Thank you for enriching us with your experiences and your opinions.