EU Countries Endorse Venezuela's Opposition Leader

EU Countries Endorse Venezuela's Opposition Leader

EU Countries Endorse Venezuela's Opposition Leader

Several European Union nations on Monday joined the United States in backing Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido as the country's interim president - increasing the pressure on beleaguered President Nicolas Maduro to step down.

European Union states have been debating for days how to address the Venezuela crisis, with ten countries recognising the opposition leader after the expiry of a deadline for President Nicolas Maduro to call a new election.

But with the majority of the military still standing with Maduro, is the country stumbling towards civil war?

Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro warned US President Donald Trump he risked having "a repeat of Vietnam in Latin America" if he sent US troops to help settle a political crisis in the country.

"Therefore, Guaido is the person we are talking to and we expect him to begin an election process as soon as possible".

The UK, France, Spain, Austria, Germany, Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Poland, the Czech Republic, Lithuania, Latvia, and Luxembourg all went further on February 4 by recognizing Guaido as interim president.

Critics of the hard-left Socialist Maduro - who is accused of running the OPEC nation of 30 million people like a dictatorship and wrecking its economy - blame the Venezuelan government's mismanagement for the lack of food and medical supplies.

"The global 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.

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 previous year [in Venezuela]".

During the protest, Guaido announced the installation of collection centres for medicine and food - items lacking in Venezuela - in neighbouring Colombia and Brazil.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron also agreed last June that they would work more closely together on foreign policy and push for an end to the rule on unanimity.

Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said that Germany, once the political circumstances allow it, would also consider providing humanitarian assistance worth €5 million ($5.7 million) to help ease the plight of Venezuelans who are suffering the effects of a country in economic free fall.

Guaido's backers say he is the legitimate leader because he is president of Venezuela's congress, which they regard as the only lawfully elected power in the country.

"I don't accept ultimatums from anybody", Maduro told Spanish TV channel La Sexta in an interview broadcast late Sunday.

Venezuela has the largest reserves in the world, but production has plunged under Mr Maduro's tenure. "Why should the European Union be giving ultimatums to a country?"

Canada and the Lima Group of more than a dozen North and South American countries have backed Guaido as the legitimate replacement for Maduro, who followed left-wing populist Hugo Chavez into Venezuela's presidency after Chavez's death in 2013.

In Europe, undeniably the most outspoken political leader against Maduro was Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez.

"The United States wants to return to the 20th century of military coups, subordinate puppet governments and the looting of resources", he said, adding Trump would leave the White House "stained with blood" if there is a military intervention.

He said Maduro was seeking to move the money from the Venezuelan Economic and Social Development Bank to its branch in Uruguay and urged the Montevideo government "not to lend itself to stealing".

The Lima Group has agreed to prevent high-level Venezuelan officials from entering territory of group members.

Maduro said he has asked Francis to "facilitate and reinforce" dialogue on Venezuela's crisis.

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