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3 March 2009
Source: The Dominion
VANCOUVER–During a recent trip to the Americas, Canadian Minister of State for Latin America, Peter Kent, confirmed that Canada will represent Israel’s diplomatic interests in Venezuela.
Following Israel’s invasion of the Gaza Strip in January, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez expelled Israeli diplomats from the country. Chavez called the assault a Palestinian “holocaust.”
“The President of Israel at this moment should be taken to the International Criminal Court together with the President of the United States,” said Chavez in a statement on January 6.
On January 14, as the air and ground invasion into Gaza continued, Venezuela cut all diplomatic ties with Israel.
President Chavez was hailed as a hero in the Arab world for standing up to Israel. Similar diplomatic moves were subsequently made by Bolivia and Ecuador.
Israel waited almost two weeks before responding. On January 28, Israel expelled Venezuela’s diplomats.
“We’re proud that the State of Israel that exists today, led by these criminals, made this decision,” said Venezuela’s Foreign Minister, Nicolas Maduro.
On the same day that Israel barred Venezuela’s diplomatic corps, the Jerusalem Post reported that “Israel’s interests in Caracas will now be represented by the Canadian Embassy.”
A Canadian official has since confirmed that Canadian diplomats will represent Israel at the Israeli Embassy in the upscale Altamira district of Caracas.
“Canada has agreed to represent Israel’s interests in Venezuela,” wrote Kent in an email response to The Dominion during his trip to the Caribbean on February 17.
Kent also added that Canada is “currently doing this for Israel in Cuba.”
Kent did not respond to a follow-up query seeking clarification on when Canada began representing Israel’s interests in Cuba.
Canada was the only member of United Nations Human Rights Council to vote against a January 12 resolution condemning Israel for its invasion of Gaza.
The resolution, put forward by the Cuban government, called on Israel to “bring an end to the collective punishment of the Palestinian people and to the excessive use of force.”
“In Venezuela, we are currently defining what services will be offered through the Canadian Embassy,” wrote Eleanor Johnston, Peter Kent’s senior special assistant, in an email to The Dominion after this story went to press. “Canada has been asked by Israel to represent that country’s interests in Venezuela, and has agreed to do so.”
Johnston also confirmed on behalf of her “colleagues in policy” that Canada has been providing Israeli citizens in Cuba with consular services since 1973, and that this service is provided on a cost-recovery basis.
Anthony Fenton is a researcher and writer who lives near Vancouver.