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Canada expects foreign meddling in October election, Chrystia Freeland says

Canada expects foreign meddling in October election, Chrystia Freeland says


Canadian Global Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland said on Friday it was likely that foreign actors would meddle in the country’s October elections, and her British counterpart said a deterrent to stop countries like Russia from interfering was critical.

U.S. intelligence officials and the governments of some European Union countries have accused Russia of interfering in their elections in recent years, allegations strongly denied by Moscow.

When asked whether she was worried Russia would interfere in the election, Freeland said she was “very concerned.”

“Our judgment is that interference is very likely and we think there have probably already been efforts by malign foreign actors to disrupt our democracy,” she said, speaking at a media freedom event on the sidelines of a G7 foreign ministers meeting in France.

Freeland said such attempts were not aimed at securing a particular outcome in a national elections, but to polarize Western societies.

The foreign ministers of the G7 nations — the U.S., France, Japan, Germany, Britain, Italy and Canada — as well as the European Union are meeting in Dinard, Brittany, where they are expected later to agree on common norms that would seek to prevent foreign powers from destabilizing democratic nations.

British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said it was imperative for liberal democracies to tackle interference by Russia and others.

“We know that states like Russia have got a very active, planned, thought-through strategy to interfere in democratic processes in Western countries and [to sow] dissension and chaos wherever they can,” Hunt said.

“We are getting much better at fending off these attacks when they happen. What we don’t do at the moment is deter them from happening in the first place.”

He said the discussions at the G7 on Friday would be aimed at finding a deterrence strategy that imposed a high price for meddling with democratic processes.



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Freeland says lifting U.S. tariffs must be part of ratification of new NAFTA

Freeland says lifting U.S. tariffs must be part of ratification of new NAFTA


Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland is linking the lifting of “absurd” U.S. tariffs on Canadian and Mexican steel to the ratification of the new North American free-trade deal.

Dealing with the tariffs — imposed by President Donald Trump under a controversial national-security provision of U.S. law — is a key part of the ratification process, Freeland said Wednesday.

Freeland says she’s heartened by the recent comments of American lawmakers who say the new trilateral trade agreement can’t be ratified with the “Section 232” tariffs in place.

“I am very glad to be hearing both in private meetings and in public statements from a number of U.S. senators, members of Congress, that they share Canada’s view that the 232 tariffs should be lifted,” the minister said in Ottawa before departing for a NATO summit in Washington, where she was expected to press the issue further.

“And that very much needs to be a part of the NAFTA ratification process.”

In a Twitter posting early this week, an influential Republican senator from Iowa called for an end to the sanctions.

“I’m calling on the Administration — specifically, President Trump — to promptly remove Section 232 tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from Canada and Mexico. This will help clear the path for the U.S.M.C.A. agreement,” wrote Sen. Chuck Grassley, the chair of the Senate Finance Committee, using the American acronym for the new agreement.

Section 232 of the United States’s Trade Expansion Act lets the president impose duties on imported goods if the imports threaten U.S. national security. Trump asserted that the U.S. needs a domestic metals industry for national-security reasons, so imports of steel and aluminum are a danger.

Freeland’s remarks indicate an evolution in Canada’s position on the sanctions and the acrimonious three-country renegotiation of NAFTA. She has said previously that two were separate issues that could not be linked, even though Trump’s Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said the tariffs were actually imposed because of what the Americans viewed as the slow pace of the talks last spring.

Plans for retaliation

Canada has imposed more than $16 billion in retaliatory tariffs on U.S. products, a list that Freeland said is constantly being examined so that they will have “the greatest impact” on American consumers. She said Canada has been consulting on retaliation strategies with Mexico and the European Union, which was also hit by the 232 tariffs.

“Our government feels very strongly — and indeed I think all Canadians feel very strongly — that the 232 steel and aluminum tariffs were illegal, unjustified and frankly absurd in the first place,” said Freeland.

“Now that we have actually concluded our negotiations on a modernized NAFTA there is all the more reason for those tariffs to be lifted.”

Freeland travelled to Washington later Wednesday for a meeting of NATO foreign ministers to mark the 70th anniversary of the transatlantic military alliance. Her first meeting was with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and senior officials said she intended to press for the lifting of the tariffs in that meeting.

Time is running short

With the clock ticking in Canada’s Parliament towards a June ratification deadline — before a summer break that probably won’t end until after the election due in October — Freeland remained non-committal Wednesday about moving forward on the necessary legislation with the tariffs still in place.

Some leading U.S. Democrats in Congress say they won’t approve the new trade agreement unless it is strengthened to force Mexico to adhere to tougher labour standards that elevate the rights of workers and their unions.

Mexico says it will introduce labour reform legislation in its Congress before it rises on April 30.

Freeland wouldn’t say whether that would be enough for the Canadian government to move ahead with ratification in Parliament.

Canada is watching the ratification process in both countries and Canada wants to “move forward in a co-ordinated way when it comes to the NAFTA ratification,” she said.



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Pence, Freeland to address Venezuela crisis as Lima Group meets in Colombia

Pence, Freeland to address Venezuela crisis as Lima Group meets in Colombia


U.S. Vice-President Mike Pence is set to announce “concrete steps” and “clear actions” to address the Venezuela crisis when he meets on Monday with regional leaders in Bogota, Colombia, a senior U.S. administration official said.

The official declined to comment on what the new measures would entail ahead of Pence’s speech, to be delivered to a summit of the Lima Group around 10:30 a.m. ET after he meets with Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido.

Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland, who has been instrumental in the formation and progress of the Lima Group, which includes 13 Latin American countries, will attend in Bogota.

“For the past two years, the world has watched with great concern as Venezuela, under Nicolas Maduro’s rule, has descended into chaos,” Freeland said in a statement late ast week. “Throughout all of this, the international community has been vocal in standing up for the rights of Venezuelans.

“Monday’s meeting of the Lima Group will build on the important work that Canada is doing with its partners in the Lima Group to support the people of Venezuela in their fight for freedom and democracy.”

As the group met in Ottawa earlier this month, Canada pledged $53 million in humanitarian aid and development support, focused on the needs of Venezuelans who have fled the country.

Over 3 million have fled country

On Friday, UN refugee and migration agencies said some 3.4 million people have now fled Venezuela, up from a November estimate of three million.

The UNCHR and the International Organization for Migration said Colombia hosts the highest number of Venezuela emigrants — more than 1.1 million — followed by Peru with 506,000 and Chile with 288,000. Brazil has taken in 96,000 Venezuelans.

The meeting Monday comes after convoys of aid were blocked at the Venezuelan border by forces and gangs loyal to  Maduro. Separate clashes between protesters and Venezuelan troops took place near the country’s border with Colombia and Brazil, with dozens injured and at least four reported killed.

“Canada is deeply concerned by the acts of violence allegedly perpetrated by the Maduro regime, designed to block the entry of relief items from neighbouring countries,” Canada’s Foreign Ministry said Friday. “Canada calls for these unacceptable attacks to be investigated and for the perpetrators to be brought to justice.”

Canada, the United States and most other Western nations no longer recognize Maduro as the country’s leader.

U.S. President Donald Trump and other Western leaders have recognized Guaido, the head of Venezuela’s national assembly, as interim president. The official said Washington wants to find ways to empower him. In recent weeks, Trump has said all options were on the table for supporting Guaido and has declined to rule out the use of military force.

Watch: Freeland speaks to CBC on Feb. 4 about Venezuela crisis

‘I think what history shows is once a leader of an authoritarian regime discovers there are no alternatives, that is when you see democracy restored,’ says Freeland. 14:13

Maduro retains the backing of both Russia and China. 

Beijing has lent more than $50 billion to Venezuela through oil-for-loan agreements over the past decade, securing energy supplies for its fast-growing economy.

“We again call on the government and opposition in Venezuela to seek a political resolution under the framework of the constitution and law, and call on the international community to do more that really benefits Venezuela’s stability, economic development and improvement in livelihoods,” China’s Foreign Ministry said on Monday.

China “hopes the international community can provide constructive help to Venezuela under the precondition of respecting Venezuela’s sovereignty,” it added.





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Peaceful transition 'absolutely' possible in Venezuela says Freeland

Peaceful transition ‘absolutely’ possible in Venezuela says Freeland


Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland said a peaceful transition of power is “absolutely” possible in Venezuela, even as embattled President Nicolas Maduro digs in his heels and opposition leaders in Venezuela refuse to rule out military intervention.

“I think that peaceful transition is absolutely possible. It is not only possible, it is essential and that is what Canada and the Lima Group are working for,” Freeland said in an interview with CBC News Network’s Power & Politics.

Freeland’s comments come after the Lima Group concluded a day-long emergency summit in Ottawa by proclaiming Venezuela’s opposition leader Juan Guaido a full member of the multi-nation group while reiterating its call for a peaceful resolution to the crisis.

The group also called on the Venezuelan national armed forces to back Guaido.

Despite a couple of high-profile defections, Venezuela’s national armed forces have largely, to date, continued to back Maduro.

The military’s continued backing of Maduro doesn’t seem to shake Freeland’s conviction that a peaceful resolution is possible.

“What history shows, is once a leader of an authoritarian regime discovers that there are no alternatives, that is when you see the regime fracturing and that is when you see democracy restored and I am absolutely confident that is what will happen in Venezuela,” Freeland told host Vassy Kapelos when asked what gives her hope a peaceful transition is possible.

The Lima Group’s opposition to military intervention stands in stark contrast to the rhetoric coming both from the U.S. and from opposition leaders in Venezuela.

In a CBS interview that aired Sunday, U.S. President Donald Trump said American military intervention is still an option on the table.

And today in Ottawa, Venezuelan opposition representative Julio Borges refused to rule out military intervention, saying he is “pro any measure that could bring Venezuela liberty.”

Former Canadian Ambassador to Venezuela Ben Rowswell highlighted Canada’s opposition to military intervention as particularly important.

“Transitions to democracy cannot be made at the barrel of a gun. They are done by the will of the citizens of the country, free from any kind of threat and free to make their own choices, not choices made by foreign soldiers,” Rowswell told Kapelos.

“I think the [Canadian] government’s shown some real backbone in their approach to Venezuela,” said Rowswell. “This is the first time, and I was a diplomat for 25 years — the first time that I’ve seen Canada openly disagree with the United States on a major issue in Latin America.”

On what may break the current stalemate, Rowswell said that Maduro is a “bitter ender.”

“He is likely to stay in power as long as he possibly can. So it really will depend on others in Maduro’s administration and in the security forces abandoning him and not he, himself, deciding to run off into the sunset,” said Rowswell.

Watch Vassy Kapelos’ full interview with Chrystia Freeland
‘I think what history shows is once a leader of an authoritarian regime discovers there are no alternatives, that is when you see democracy restored,’ says Freeland. 14:13





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