New presidential elections key to solving Venezuelan crisis: Colombian envoy

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Colombia’s ambassador to Canada says Venezuela’s 1.4 million refugees will always be welcome in his country but his true hope is that they are able to one day return to their own free and democratic homeland.

Envoy Frederico Hoyos says that goal must drive Thursday’s meeting of the Lima Group on Thursday, which Canada is hosting.

The United Nations estimates that six million Venezuelans will have fled their country by the year’s end, as its economic, health and education systems collapse, and no country is feeling the effects of the exodus more than neighbouring Colombia.

Hoyos is calling on the Lima Group to make a renewed push for a new presidential election in Venezuela, one that he says would likely end in the defeat of the country’s president, Nicolas Maduro.

Canada and dozens of other countries recognize opposition leader Juan Guaido as Venezuela’s legitimate leader and view Maduro as an illegitimate dictator who stole his country’s last presidential election in 2018.

Foreign Affairs Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne is hosting the gathering of foreign ministers from the coalition of Western Hemisphere countries, minus the United States, in Gatineau, Que. near Ottawa.

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