Canada asking other nations to expand Venezuela sanctions

FILE PHOTO: Canada's Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland speaks during the opening session of the Lima Group meeting in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, February 4, 2019. REUTERS/Chris Wattie

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada is talking to its partners about expanding sanctions on the Venezuelan government of President Nicolas Maduro, which is under growing pressure to step down, Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland said on Monday.

“We have put many of the senior leaders in the Maduro regime on our sanctions list. We are discussing with our partners now ways that that sanctions list can be expanded in order to have even more bite,” she told reporters.

Freeland, speaking on a conference call after the regional Lima Group block met in Bogota to discuss the Venezuelan crisis, did not give details.

The United States targeted Venezuela’s government with new sanctions on Monday and called on allies to freeze the assets of its state-owned oil company, PDVSA, after deadly violence blocked humanitarian aid from reaching the country over the weekend.

“Sadly, there are troubling signs that Maduro’s illegitimate regime is becoming more desperate and intransigent as evidenced by the deadly use of force on its own people,” said Freeland, who reiterated the Lima Group’s position that it did not support the use of military action to end the crisis.

Asked what the Lima Group could achieve, given Maduro’s insistence he will stay in power, Freeland said it was expanding the number of nations that backed Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido’s claim to be interim president.

Reporting by David Ljunggren; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Peter Cooney