Freeland warns of potential refugee crisis as Venezuelans flee political and economic turmoil

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TORONTO—Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland said Canada is concerned that the political and economic turmoil in Venezuela is becoming a humanitarian crisis.

Freeland and Peru’s foreign minister are taking that message to the UN Secretary General this afternoon in New York City.

The minister made the comment in Toronto at a conference, where she was interviewed on stage by Frank McKenna — a former Liberal premier of New Brunswick and former Canadian ambassador to Washington.

Freeland said there’s a danger of a new refugee crisis as Venezuelans flee the political and economic problems besetting the South American country.

She said Colombia and Brazil are already under pressure from the upheaval in Venezuela.

Venezuela is embroiled in a constitutional crisis that pits the government of President Nicolas Maduro against opposition politicians amid an economic meltdown that includes triple-digit inflation and shortages of food, medicine and other basic necessities.

In September, Freeland announced that Canada had imposed sanctions against 40 key figures in the Venezuelan regime, including Maduro, who she said had helped undermine the country’s stability.

Freeland added that she’d like the United Nations to assist in recruiting the European Union to help put pressure on the Venezuelan government as well.

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