For Immediate Release OTTAWA, November 4th, 2016 – Last week, Venezuela’s electoral authority set aside the democratic rights of its people and suspended the next phase of a recall referendum demanded by the opposition. This decision was made in courts that are controlled by Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro. The Venezuelan government has imprisoned over a hundred political prisoners for more than a year now, including Leopold Lopez, the Leader of the Opposition. Canada’s Official Opposition Deputy Critic for Foreign Affairs Tom Kmiec is deeply concerned with this sequence of events. “Freedom of expression is a fundamental right,” said Kmiec. “It is a right that distinguishes the free from the oppressed and democracies from dictatorships.” At the end of October, President Maduro met with Pope Francis, Sovereign of Vatican City, who urged him to negotiate with Venezuela’s opposition to solve his country’s crisis and alleviate the people’s suffering. Meeting with the opposition at the Pope’s advice, President Maduro said they must be in dialogue and search for the nation’s common interest. While his words sound promising, his actions are not and there has been no progress towards rectification by the regime. Conservatives call on the government of Canada to demand the Venezuelan government release all political prisoners in a show of good faith and that they respect their citizens’ right to a referendum to recall their government. Respecting these rights is fundamental to being a democratic nation and achieving a greater level of abundance and growth in any given country. “Canada needs to play a major role in the continued democratization of Latin America,” said Kmiec. “By pushing Venezuela in the direction of true democracy and away from authoritarian democratism, we can be that strong voice the people in Latin American countries look to in tough times.” -30- For more information, please contact: Saro Khatchadourian Office of the Leader of the Official Opposition 613-314-4238