Canada has said it will expel a top Venezuelan diplomat and bar the South American country’s ambassador from returning to Ottawa, in a tit-for-tat move amid an escalating diplomatic row.
The announcement by Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland on Monday came two days after Venezuela expelled Canada’s top diplomat in Caracas for allegedly interfering in its domestic affairs.
Freeland said in a statement that Ambassador Wilmer Barrientos Fernandez, who had already been pulled out of Canada to protest earlier sanctions against Venezuelan officials, “is no longer welcome” in the country.
“I am also declaring the Venezuelan charge d’affaires persona non grata,” added Freeland, referring to diplomat Angel Herrera.
The foreign minister said the move was in retaliation for the expulsion on Saturday of Craig Kowalik, Canada’s charge d’affaires in its embassy in Caracas, by the government of President Nicolas Maduro.
Kowalik was accused of “nagging, constant rude and offensive interference in Venezuela’s domestic affairs”, said Delcy Rodriguez, head of Venezuela’s Constituent Assembly, according to AFP news agency.
Venezuela also expelled Brazilian Ambassador Ruy Pereira.
Earlier this year, following in the US footsteps, Canada had unveiled sanctions against 52 foreigners it deemed corrupt and accused of human rights violations.
Among those sanctioned were Russian, South Sudanese and Venezuelan officials, including Maduro.
In August, US President Donald Trump’s government imposed sweeping financial sanctions on Venezuela, and labelled Maduro “a dictator”.
The measures banned US financial institutions from providing new money to Venezuela’s government or the state oil company, while all of Maduro’s assets subject to US jurisdiction were frozen, and Americans were barred from doing business with him.
The sanctions drew an angry rebuke from Caracas, with Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza calling them the “worst aggression” against the country in two centuries.
Maduro himself, however, said that the measures did not intimidate him “for a moment”.
“I don’t listen to orders from the empire, not now or ever,” said the socialist president, before telling Trump to “bring on more sanctions”.