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Canada looking closely at U.S. freeze of Venezuelan government assets

FILE PHOTO: Canada's Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland takes part in a bilateral meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at the Lappi Areena in Rovaniemi, Finland May 7, 2019. Mandel Ngan/POOL via REUTERS/File Photo

TORONTO (Reuters) - Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland on Tuesday said Canada was examining the United States’ move to freeze all Venezuelan government assets, but stopped short of saying whether Canada would take the same path.

“We are looking at them closely,” Freeland said when asked about the new U.S. actions during a joint press conference with Britain’s new Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab in Toronto.

Canada has imposed sanctions on more than 100 members of President Nicolas Maduro’s government, and is part of the Lima Group - a bloc of mostly Latin American countries - that recognizes Venezuelan opposition chief Juan Guaido as the legitimate leader and is demanding that Maduro resign.

“We do have a very strong set of sanctions currently in place against the leaders of the Maduro regime,” Freeland said.

On Monday, U.S. President Donald Trump imposed a freeze on all Venezuelan government assets in the United States, sharply escalating an economic and diplomatic campaign aimed at removing Maduro from power.

U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton said on Tuesday that the new sanctions would choke off Maduro’s international financing, and he warned Russia not to provide Venezuela with further support. Bolton also said that the new sanctions can be imposed on anyone who supports Caracas.

Freeland said Canada’s “focus and concern” on Venezuela “absolutely continues unabated”.

“What’s happening in Venezuela is a struggle between democracy and human rights and dictatorship, and that’s why Canada has made it such a priority to stand for the people of Venezuela and support them,” Freeland said.

Reporting by Moira Warburton in Toronto, writing by Steve Scherer in Ottawa; Editing by Bernadette Baum and Susan Thomas