Ken Frankel is the president of the Canadian Council for the Americas.
Canada may have finally discovered that its best opportunity to make friends, influence people and project Canadian values and interests lies in its own hemisphere.
This shouldn’t have surprised anyone. What could come next hopefully won’t, either.
In taking a leadership role in the Lima Group’s support for a peaceful transition from Nicolas Maduro’s regime in Venezuela to democracy, Canada has seized an opportunity to showcase the validity and importance of a foreign policy based on the promotion of democracy, human-rights accountability and multilateral solutions. This is welcome news for a Trudeau government that has wrestled with implementing these policies elsewhere in the world.
That may be changing. Canada’s Lima Group experience could be a jumping-off point to a more ambitious leadership role in the region, particularly as the United States pulls back from its support for human rights and democracy around the world. After all, if Canada can lead a bloc of “like-minded” countries on Venezuela, why can’t it do so on other critical issues as well?
So while Canada’s efforts could be the beginning of a watershed moment for sustained Canadian diplomatic leadership in the hemisphere, declining to seize this opportunity could also lead its work in Venezuela to become another episode in a history of important yet short-lived sallies that fails to amount to a comprehensive strategy for the region.
As events evolve, the Venezuelan file will highlight whether Canada’s leadership has the requisite stomach, skills and resources to make that happen.
For instance, the idea of a coalition of “like-minded countries” is an ultimately evanescent concept. Sooner rather than later, large fissures on issues will emerge among the Lima Group members and each country will inevitably begin to prioritize its own agenda, interests and relationships.
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