European Union powers recognize Guaido as Venezuelan leader, demand free and fair elections

Arturo Kim
Февраля 5, 2019

Canada and its Latin American allies in the Lima Group, along with the United States, have been pushing for Maduro's departure.

"The worldwide community's goal should be to help (Venezuela), without destructive meddling from beyond its borders", Alexander Shchetinin, head of the Latin America department at Russia's Foreign Ministry, told Interfax.

After announcing the Spanish government's official recognition of Guaido, Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez urged the 35-year-old National Assembly head to "call elections as soon as possible, elections that have to be free and democratic".

"If someday there'll be a coup; if there'll be a U.S. intervention of Venezuela, then, Senior Pedro Sanchez, your hands will be stained in blood forever and history will remember you as a puppet in service of Donald Trump's policy of interference", President Maduro said in an address, broadcast live on his Twitter page.

"The coward government of Spain has made a awful decision in the history of relations between Spain and Venezuela".

Some EU members are nervous about setting a precedent of recognising a self-proclaimed leader. A growing list of 38 countries has now recognized Guaido, including non-EU European nations Kosovo, Iceland and Albania.

Influential German member of the European Parliament Manfred Weber, who leads the conservative European People's Party grouping and is a candidate to become the next Commission president, said the bloc's disjointed response had been "a tragedy".

President Maduro, 56, a former union leader, bus driver and foreign minister, replaced ex-president Hugo Chavez in 2013 after his death from cancer.

Opposition leader and self-proclaimed interim president of Venezuela Juan Guaidó and his wife Fabiana Rosales take part in a rally against the government of Nicolás Maduro in the streets of Caracas, Venezuela, on February 2, 2019.

Earlier Sunday, Maduro addressed troops on military exercises in Venezuela's coastal northeast, calling on them for "maximum cohesion" a day after a top Air Force general publicly sided with Guaido.

"Soldiers, we continue to wait for you".

Meanwhile, the opposition was moving ahead with a risky strategy to bring in humanitarian aid from Colombia, hoping to break the all-important military's loyalty to Maduro.

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Our global editor Lindsey Hilsum is in Caracas.

Palacek, like numerous protesters, said he doesn't blame Maduro or his predecessor Hugo Chavez for the humanitarian crisis in Venezuela.

He has said he is only willing to call new elections to the opposition-held National Assembly.

Maduro also claimed that "the military option is on Donald Trump's table". The challenge for the Lima Group is that Mexico opposes measures to oust Maduro. Several of Washington's Latin American allies followed suit.

Portugal's Foreign Minister Augusto Santos Silva said the group wants to end Venezuela's political stalemate through the ballot box, preventing a civil war or an "illegitimate foreign intervention".

"We know that the people of Venezuela are facing tremendous hardship and they need our help, as do the countries who have taken in those fleeing violence", Mr. Trudeau said.

Such intervention "does not contribute in any way to a peaceful, effective and vital settlement to the crisis that Venezuelans are enduring", Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said in comments carried by state news agency TASS.

Guaido's representative to Monday's Ottawa meeting, Orlando Viera-Blanco, said the decision was a key step in freeing his country from its economic and political crisis and putting in on a road toward democracy.

Greece's left-wing government declined to join other European Union states in overtly backing Guaido and called for dialogue to resolve the crisis.

Under Maduro's stewardship, oil-dependent Venezuela has plunged into an economic crisis, suffering from hyperinflation and shortages of food and medicine.

Guaido accused Maduro's government of trying to move up to $1.2 billion from the state development bank Bandes to a financial entity in Uruguay, but did not present evidence.

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