August 29, 2019 / 12:54 AM / 2 months ago

Cuba asks Canada to help end U.S. sanctions on Venezuela

HAVANA (Reuters) - Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez urged Canadian counterpart Chrystia Freeland on Wednesday to help end U.S. sanctions on Venezuela in their third meeting since May on the South American country’s political and humanitarian crisis.

Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland shakes hands with her Cuban counterpart Bruno Rodriguez during a meeting in Havana, Cuba August 28, 2019. Ismael Francisco/Pool via REUTERS

Communist-run Cuba is a strong ally of leftist President Nicolas Maduro, whom most Western nations including Canada want to step down in favor of opposition leader Juan Guaido, arguing his election was fraudulent and there must be a new vote.

A hike in U.S. sanctions this year, aimed at intensifying pressure on Maduro, has hurt an economy already experiencing hyperinflation that has fueled malnutrition and disease while prompting millions to flee.

“I expressed that tightening of #US coercive measures vs #Venezuela damages its people and are contrary to International Law and the dialogue process,” Rodriguez tweeted in English after the meeting.

A Cuban Foreign Ministry statement added that the minister

“therefore proposed Canada contribute to their elimination.”

U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration has railed against socialism in Latin America, accuses Havana of propping up Maduro and tightened the decades-old U.S. trade embargo on the island this year.

The strategy, which is more aggressive than that of other Western countries, appears partly aimed at winning the votes of Latin American exile communities in the battleground state of Florida in next year’s presidential election, some analysts say.

Canada, a neighbor and NATO ally of the United States, also has long-standing good relations with Cuba, raising hopes it could serve as a mediator in the Venezuelan crisis.

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence called on Canada in June to do more to engage directly with Cuba over what he called its “malign influence” on Venezuela.

The Canadian Foreign Ministry said in a statement that Rodriguez and Freeland agreed that senior officials would stay in contact and continue to exchange views over Venezuela.

Reporting by Sarah Marsh in Havana; Additional Reporting by David Ljunggren in Ottawa; Editing by Peter Cooney

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