Canada lifts sanctions on Venezuela’s former spy chief

ANKARA (AA): Canada has lifted economic sanctions on Venezuela’s former spy chief, who was involved in the April 30 military uprising, in a new sign of continued support to the Venezuelan opposition.

“[Manuel Ricardo] Cristopher Figuera has broken ranks with the [Venezuelan President Nicolas] Maduro regime and has called for change in Venezuela,” said the Global Affairs Canada, the country’s Foreign Ministry, in a Twitter post.

Canada encourages others “who believe in democracy” for Venezuelan people to follow example of Figuera, former director of Venezuela’s Bolivarian National Intelligence Service (SEBIN), it added.

Canada had put sanctions on Figuera on April 13.

He is currently in Colombia and is cooperating with the U.S. intelligence services, said several sources in Washington and Bogota who are aware of his whereabouts, according to a local news outlet Univision Noticias.

Last month, the U.S. also removed sanctions on Figuera after he defected from the government.

The Trump administration had called on Maduro’s senior officials and military to throw their support behind opposition leader Juan Guaido, offering the removal of sanctions should they change course.

Figuera served as head of SEBIN from October 2018 till April 30, 2019. Previously, he also served as aide of former Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez for 12 years.

Maduro said Figuera was “the most powerful figure” to join Guaido’s failed uprising, and claimed he was “recruited by U.S. intelligence services” in 2018.

A political unrest is ongoing between Venezuela’s elected President Maduro and opposition leader Guaido since Jan. 10.

On April 30, Guaido issued a video message alongside a small contingent of uniformed military personnel and armored vehicles in which he called for an uprising to end the “usurpation” of Maduro, and has continued to call for mass demonstration against the Venezuelan president.

He stressed it was the beginning of the final phase of the effort to oust Maduro.