European Union nations support Venezuela's Guaido as anti-Maduro bloc grows
05 February, 2019, 07:09 | Author: Trevor Moore
Maduro's government, overseeing an economic collapse that has prompted 3 million Venezuelans to flee the country, lashed out at the European Union nations, saying their move would affect relations with Caracas.
"The imposition of any solutions or the attempt to legitimize the attempt of the power usurpation is, in our viewpoint, the direct and indirect interference in Venezuela's internal affairs".
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".
The arrival of 400 Russian military contractors after Mr. Trump's January 23 recognition of Mr. Guaido, the head of the National Assembly, triggered speculation that Moscow was reinforcing Mr. Maduro's personal security or even preparing his evacuation.
Speaking to reporters in Brussels after a meeting of European Union foreign affairs ministers, top EU diplomat Federica Mogherini said that "the EU and its member states never recognised as legitimate the presidential elections that were held past year [in Venezuela]". "Faced with President Maduro's refusal to organize presidential elections which would clarify, calm the situation in Venezuela. we consider that Mr. Guaido has the capacity and legitimacy to organize these elections".
Guaido is expected to announce a date for the arrival of humanitarian aid from the U.S. - a path Maduro believes will lead to a US-led military intervention.
Guaido allies plan to take a large quantity of food and medicine donated by the United States, multilateral organizations and non-profit groups across the Colombian border into the Venezuelan state of Tachira this week, according to a person directly involved in the effort.
The US and other countries have already pledged humanitarian aid for Guaido's administration, though it remains to be seen where and how it can enter the country without the military's support. Yesterday, an array of European Union states also declared Guaido an "interim president".
On Monday, he accused Maduro of trying to illicitly transfer up to $1.2 billion from public coffers to a bank in Uruguay.
Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom said the election that brought Maduro to power was neither free nor fair and told Swedish broadcaster SVT on Monday that Venezuelans "now must get new, free and fair elections instead".
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France, Germany, Portugal, Austria, Sweden, Denmark, Latvia, Lithuania, Finland and the Netherlands also recognized Guaido. Ten EU countries have yet to announce their position.
"We are not beggars", he said on Venezuelan state TV.
Maduro has been called on to resign and let the country hold a new presidential election as his government has sidelined the National Assembly, held widely questioned elections, and overseen an economic crisis that has forced millions of Venezuelans to flee, mostly to other South American countries. "You will leave the presidency stained with blood", Maduro said Sunday evening in an interview with the Spanish television station Sexta.
In January, the United States recognised Juan Guaido as the "legitimate" head of the country, handing him control of the country's assets in the US.
Maduro began a new term in office last month after disputed 2018 elections whose results were rejected as invalid by the opposition.
Some of the EU countries backing Guaido are part of a newly formed "International Contact Group" of eight European and four Latin American nations.
At the beginning of a week of intense diplomacy, Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau meanwhile pledged $40 million in humanitarian aid for Venezuelans as he hosted a meeting of the Lima Group of Latin American countries and Canada.
The Canadian Labour Congress (CLC), of which CUPE is a member, also issued a statement last week, warning of the dire outcome of "international interference" in Venezuela's crisis.
But David Lipton, the No. 2 at the International Monetary Fund, called Venezuela's economic crisis - marked by widespread food shortages, protracted hyperinflation and the loss of human capital through emigration - an "unprecedented economic storm" that will required generous, broad-based international support to overcome.
A special forces unit called FAES led home raids following unrest associated with opposition protests in January, killing as many as 10 people in a single operation in a hillside slum of Caracas.
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Guaido led a peaceful demonstration Wednesday with residents stepping out of their homes and workplaces for two hours. Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro attends a military exercise in in Caracas, Feb. 1, 2019.
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