On February 13, when reporting on television about the thwarted coup against the Bolivarian government of Venezuela, President of the National Assembly Diosdado Cabello referred to a Canadian link. President Nicolás Maduro has alleged that the failed coup was organized and financed by the United States government.
Cabello said an RCMP member attached to the Canadian embassy, whom he identified as Nancy Birbek, along with another embassy official, had earlier in the week been investigating the airport facilities in Valencia and inquiring about the airport’s capacity to handle “special cases.” He said the official was operating outside her area of responsibility and wondered aloud what contingencies the embassy might have been preparing for.
On February 15, three terse tweets appeared on the Canadian embassy’s Twitter account dismissing Cabello’s allegations as false and saying the embassy had informed the government about “the trip to Valencia” beforehand in a letter, claiming it involved routine emergency planning to assist Canadian citizens as they do in any country.
Whether or not Canadian embassy officials were in on the planned coup attempt, it is not the first time suspicions have been raised about the role Canada is playing in the country, especially since the arrival of Ambassador Ben Rowswell in March of last year.
Less than two weeks before the coup plot was exposed, Cabello asked on his weekly television program Con el Mazo Dando what the Canadian embassy and its ambassador were doing meddling in Venezuela’s internal affairs. His comments were in reference to the ambassador co-hosting an award presentation at his residence at the end of January, at which a number of individuals and organizations were recognized for their work “defending human rights” in the country. In most cases, the NGOs that were honoured for their work on human rights cast the Bolivarian government in a negative light.
The winner of the embassy’s annual “Human Rights Prize” gets a trip to meet with “human rights authorities and organizations” in Canada and a tour of Venezuelan cities to share experiences.
Perhaps more telling than anything is that among the invited guests at the embassy’s human rights event was the wife of Leopoldo López, right wing opposition figure currently jailed and on trial for his role in organizing the violent anti-government street protests and barricades last year aimed at forcing President Maduro out of office by unconstitutional means. The plan failed miserably, but it led to the deaths of 43 people with hundreds more injured and widespread property damage.
And there is more. In July, respected journalist and former Vice-President of Venezuela, Jose Vicente Rangel declared on his weekly television program that the Canadian embassy seemed to be engaging in “strange” activities against the constitutional government of Venezuela. Rangel cited reports of members of a well-known intelligence agency that specializes in destabilization activities being brought into Venezuela through Canada’s diplomatic mission. As might be expected, the embassy denied there was any truth to these allegations.
Canada’s representatives were not alone among embassies in Venezuela planning for upheaval. The German embassy was reported to have alarmed political observers in the country when it issued an official declaration advising residents to “take precautions,” reported Venezuelanalysis. The statement advised Germans in the country to have “lots of provisions” including for two weeks’ worth of food, drinking water, medication, etc. The declaration was issued on February 5, putting the two-week time frame in the same period as the date for the foiled coup. Like its Canadian counterpart, the German embassy denied there was anything unusual about the announcement. “We always advise having food and water at home,” said the embassy’s Cultural and Political Secretary.
Although he has been on his assignment for almost a year, Rowswell remains Canada’s Ambassador-designate to Venezuela as he has not been accredited by the Bolivarian government.
Source TML Weekly Information Project, February 21, 2015
“Venezuela: Who is Ben Rowswell?,” February 25, 2015
“Canadian diplomats trained in social media … in Washington,” Tony Seed, September 14, 2014.
“Venezuela: Dirty activities of Canadian embassy,” Tony Seed, August 30, 2014.
“Machado ‘visit’: Harperites’ continuing subversion of Venezuela,” Tony Seed, May 10, 2014