TORONTO (AP) — Canada announced Friday it has imposed sanctions against key figures in the regime of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro in what the government said is a clear message that their anti-democratic behavior has consequences.
Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland said the targeted sanctions are aimed at 40 officials and individuals — including Maduro himself — who are helping to undermine the security, stability and integrity of democratic institutions in Venezuela.
The sanctions freeze any assets the individuals may have in Canada and bans Canadians from engaging them in business dealings.
"Canada will not stand by silently as the Government of Venezuela robs its people of their fundamental democratic rights," Freeland said in a statement. "Canada stands in solidarity with the people of Venezuela as they struggle to restore democracy in their country."
Among those sanctioned were three top Maduro loyalists who were prominently skipped over in successive rounds of U.S. sanctions over the past few months. They are former Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez, who heads the special assembly rewriting the constitution; Defense Minister Gen. Vladimir Padrino Lopez; and socialist party leader Diosdado Cabello.
A Canadian official said they wanted "to do high visibility leaders in the first round" as Canada just began its sanctions. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly.
President Donald Trump signed an executive order imposing sweeping financial sanctions on Venezuela's government last month. The United States has escalated its pressure on Venezuela as Maduro has consolidated power in recent months. More than 120 people have been killed during four months of protests against Maduro's plans to rewrite Venezuela's constitution. A referendum in July gave his allies the authority to start the process, even though the vote has been widely criticized at home and abroad for alleged fraud and a lack of oversight.
The Canadian government is calling it a "deepening descent into dictatorship.
Associated Press writer Joshua Goodman in Bogota, Colombia contributed to this report.