The Canadian Government Acts Shamefully Ambivalent on Cuba, and Backs US Aggression on Venezuela

There are two pieces of news that involve the government of Canada and its foreign relations policy. They are both derived from two recent statements issued by the US State Department.

In one, Canada is a declared co-sponsor of the statement together with the US and the EU. In the second Canada actually stands out for its absence as a co-sponsor. About the former we ask, why are we not surprised? About the latter we ask, is Canada really absent?

Joint statement of June 25

The first is a joint statement issued on June 25. It has been referred to as a “shameless admission of punishing Venezuela”. But there is more to it.

The statement begins, “We remain deeply concerned about the ongoing crisis in Venezuela and its regional and global impact.” Immediately after, in their second paragraph, they make the most outlandish statement that fails to contradict the evidence of their own actions, “The peaceful solution to that deep political, social, and economic crisis has to come from the Venezuelan people themselves through Venezuelan-led, comprehensive negotiations with participation from all stakeholders.” Are they in denial? No. They are in full misleading mode.

We know very well that the “crisis” is the result of the illegal crippling unilateral coercive measures they have imposed on the people of Venezuela since 2015. The economic war waged by the US and its allies has dramatically reduced Venezuela’s income by more than 90%! Forty international banks in 17 countries have stolen Venezuelan assets worth $6 billion! Their aim is to make the “economy scream”. How can this financial siege contribute to fair “comprehensive negotiations”? A sincere concern about the “crisis” would start by ending the blockade of Venezuela.

Venezuela is effectively under an economic and financial blockade. That is not an equitable position in order to expect fair negotiations. A recent digital poll in Venezuela reveals that almost three quarters of respondents consider that “the economic blockade and sanctions should be the main topic to be debated in Mexico.” Much hope is being held in a new round of talks between the Maduro government and the Venezuelan opposition to take place in Mexico in August, thanks to Nicolas Maduro’s continued call to dialogue as a process to bring peace in Venezuela. Not thanks to US-EU-Canada interference.

What does the US-EU-Canada trio of new colonisers mean by “Venezuela-led” solution? There are well documented accounts that the US, with the complicity of the EU and Canada, has attempted to overthrow the government of President Nicolas Maduro with various coups d’état, cyber-attacks, infrastructure sabotage, assassination attempts, fake humanitarian” interventions, military invasions by paramilitaries and mercenaries, currency manipulation, financing violent urban gangs, and a vile infowar campaign. 

Further, the idea of a “solution” seems to include the “participation of all stakeholders”. Isn’t Nicolas Maduro and the strong party he represents a “stakeholder”? And yet the US has a mafia-like bounty on his head!

As a co-sponsor of this joint statement the Canadian government is admitting to be complicit to what Venezuelan foreign minister Jorge Arreaza called a “persecution” of Venezuela. The Canadian government became an active perpetrator of the Venezuelan “deep political, social, and economic crisis” when it created the so-called Lima Group in August 2017, with the intention of producing a regime change in Venezuela obviously not led by Venezuelans.

Joint statement of July 25

A month later, on July 25, the US State Department published another joint statement on its website. This was in relation to the riots that occurred on July 11 in Cuba and it was “released by the Governments of Austria, Brazil, Colombia, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Ecuador, Estonia, Guatemala, Greece, Honduras, Israel, Latvia, Lithuania, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Poland, Republic of Korea, Ukraine, and the United States of America.” An odd mix of 21 governments with only five from the Latin American and Caribbean region where Cuba is geographically located. All 21 governments are ideologically aligned with the US.

Colombia stands out as a co-opted US beachhead in Latin America for allowing at least seven US military bases on its territory, for being the largest facilitator of drug-trafficking, for its high rate of social activists murders by paramilitary groups, and for being a US “assistant” in incursions against Venezuela.

Of course this meagre list pales in comparison with the communiqué of the 120member Non-Aligned Movement, which “strongly condemn[ed] the international campaign organised in recent days with the purpose of destabilising the Republic of Cuba and undermining its government, the constitutional order, the rule of law and peace in the country.”

Canada is also a US assistant vis-á-vis Venezuela and ideologically aligned with the US, however, stands out for its absence from this joint statement.

The statement was expressly issued to “condemn the mass arrests and detentions of protestors in Cuba and call on the government to respect the universal rights and freedoms of the Cuban people, including the free flow of information to all Cubans.” It goes on with insistence, “We urge the Cuban government to release those detained for exercising their rights to peaceful protest. We call for press freedom and for the full restoration of Internet access”.

The reference to “peaceful protests” is questionable based on videos of theft and looting shown on Cuban TV news, and also on videos allegedly released by the protesters that show beatings on Cuban police force members. More astounding, it is incomprehensible that Washington would issue a new set of sanctions against Cuban police.

The most relevant part of the “demands” is the “free flow of information” and “Internet access”. Washington has been very keen to allow a free flow of information to Cubans for propaganda purposes since at least the Obama administration. The July 11 protests were in fact the result of US-induced calls made on Cubans via social media with the purpose of starting a Colour Revolution or Counter Revolution in Cuba, which I explained in more details in a previous article.

Ironically, the US blockade of Cuba either prevents Cubans the free importation of electronic devices and equipment, or forces Cubans to give importation priority to more essential goods like food and medicines over electronic devices and equipment. Electronic devices and Internet connection are available in Cuba, however they can be expensive mostly due to the financial limitations imposed by the blockade that makes everything more costly on the Island.

If Canada does not appear in this joint statement, however, should not make Canadians revel about the progressive policies of their government towards a country with which has had 76 years of uninterrupted diplomatic relations. Canada also has trade connections with Cuba but, by and large, it abides by the US blockade of Cuba including financial transactions.

Ottawa has made sure to please Washington by issuing its own public statement on Cuba, “the Honourable Marc Garneau, Minister of Foreign Affairs, spoke with Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla, Cubas Minister of Foreign Affairs. Minister Garneau expressed Canadas deep concern over the violent crackdown on protests in Cuba, particularly the repressive measures against peaceful protesters, journalists and activists, and arbitrary detention. The people of Cuba deserve their full rights to freedom of speech and assembly, as well as democracy.”

The words and the spirit of the statement unequivocally match the US statement’s. What Marc Garneau failed to report from that conversation is what Bruno Rodriguez said to him as reported in his tweet: “I expressed concern about systematic human rights violations of indigenous peoples [in Canada].”

Canada’s ambivalent position about Cuba has not gone unnoticed by Canadians. Canadians have been very vocal in pressuring the Canadian government to adopt a clear stand in support of Cuba.

In an open letter addressed to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, one of Canada’s largest unions, UNIFOR, states, We urge your government to maintain its historic independent role on relations with Cuba and to respond positively to the statements of NDP Member of Parliament Jack Harris, urging diplomatic efforts to end sanctions. We also note the current petition in Parliament sponsored by MP Niki Ashton that deserves support.”

The referenced petition sponsored by MP Niki Ashton urges the Government of Canada to “Call on the Government of the United States to end all economic sanctions against Cuba”. Most important is the request to “Take immediate steps and actions through the implementation and enforcement of, among others, the Foreign Extraterritorial Measures Act, in order to preserve Canadian sovereignty and ensure that Canadian companies and other entities do not participate in United States economic sanctions against Cuba”.

A letter to Marc Garneau by the Canadian Network on Cuba that has a membership of about 50,000, gives examples of the extraterritorial nature of US sanctions that directly affect Canada, “Canada has not been immune from these pressures. For example, in 2017 the Office of Foreign Assets Control of the U.S. Treasury Department fined the American Honda Finance Corporation (AHFC) $87,255 for approving and financing between February 2011 and March 2014 the leasing by Honda Canada Finance Inc. of 13 cars to the Embassy of Cuba in Canada.” Similarly, “in 2020 Western Union Financial Services (Canada), Inc. decided to end the transfer of funds from Canada to Cuba.”

Canada consistently stands with US imperialism

The two joint statements released by the US State Department show a consistent hegemonic and imperial position on Cuba and Venezuela. But also puts the spotlight on Canada showing a Canadian government that is shamefully ambivalent on Cuba but quite unequivocally pro-US when it comes to Venezuela.

These are contrasting positions that reveal a faulty Canadian foreign policy based on a hateful double standard by letting down a friendly trade partner like Cuba and striking at a country like Venezuela that has not meant any harm to Canada.

A memorandum written by US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs, Lester Mallory, in April 1960 advocated for a policy to cause the “decline and fall of Castro” despite the majority support for the Cuban revolution of 1959. The intention was that the policy when adopted would “make[s] the greatest inroads in denying money and supplies to Cuba, to decrease monetary and real wages, to bring about hunger, desperation and overthrow of government.” We know that that “policy” is today in place in the form of a criminal blockade, which is enforced extraterritorially by flexing the imperial US financial muscle on other countries, including Canada. The Biden administration is now also imposing additional illegal coercive measures (sanctions) against Cuba.

Despite such evidence, Ottawa irrationally refuses to acknowledge the cruelty, illegality and the devastating impact of the blockade imposed by the US upon Cuba becoming fully complicit with Washington’s foreign policy of imperial aggression. Instead, it deflects the narrative parroting the US about false claims of government repression and the need for democracy in Cuba.

Similarly, we expect the Canadian government to take the same independent stand in opposition to the US blockade and unilateral coercive measures against Venezuela by first withdrawing its political alignment with the foreign policy of the Biden administration on the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. By supporting “sanctions” Canada is quite literally contributing to the death of thousands of Venezuelans by “denying money and supplies”, like food and medicines, and by bringing about “hunger and desperation”.

By extension, Canadians (and Americans or Europeans or Latin Americans) who do not question the imperial and colonising policies of blockades and “sanctions” of their government towards Cuba and Venezuela, become in turn complicit. We must emulate the anti-imperialist stand in solidarity with millions of Cubans and Venezuelans.

Originally posted on the Canada Files