By Joyce Nelson
February 02, 2019 "Information Clearing House" - On January 26, Canadians learned the extent to which Canada’s “quiet diplomacy” had helped Venezuela’s Juan Guaido emerge to declare himself interim president on Jan. 23, in defiance of the elected president Nicolas Maduro. In a lengthy piece for The Canadian Press, reporter Mike Blanchfield noted that “emboldening Venezuela’s opposition has been a labour of months” for Canadian diplomats, given that the opposition parties had been in complete disarray.  But by January 9, Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland was able to phone Guaido and “congratulate him … on uniting the opposition.” 
Freeland, working with the ad hoc Lima Group, had long been calling for unity among the Venezuelan opposition parties. After foreign affairs ministers from the Lima Group met in Toronto on October 26, 2017, Freeland appeared at a Munk School of Global Affairs panel and said the message of the Lima Group to the Venezuelan opposition is “Get your act together, guys!” 
Then came Maduro’s May 20, 2018 presidential victory, in which the Venezuelan people re-elected him despite months of suffering under U.S. economic warfare.  Blanchfield noted that the election results “galvanized” the Lima Group.
It took months to unify Venezuela’s opposition parties among themselves and also with the Lima Group, which Nino Pagliccia reminds us is “not an international organization. It’s just an ad hoc group of governments with no other purpose” than to promote “the overthrow of the legitimate Maduro government.” 
So getting foreign ministers to agree with Venezuelan opposition parties on a uniting figure and platform must have been difficult. The Lima Group members who eventually signed the declaration supporting Juan Guaido include Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, Paraguay and Peru. Similarly challenging would be “building bridges with a fractured opposition that was as much at odds with itself as it was with Maduro.” 
And here’s where one sentence from Blanchfield’s article stands out, especially for alert Canadian readers. He noted:
“In a November  report, the International Crisis Group documented the divisions and urged the groups to set aside their ‘personal and political rivalries’.” 
In Canada, we’ve read and heard that name quite a lot in the past few weeks. The International Crisis Group is the current employer of Michael Kovrig, a former Canadian diplomat and one of two Canadian men arrested in China in December in what appears to be retaliation for Canada’s arrest (at the request of the U.S.) on December 1, 2018 of Huawei’s chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou, daughter of Huawei’s CEO and founder.
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