Caracas: Some key European Union nations have recognised Venezuela‘s opposition leader Juan Guaido as the country’s interim president, heightening a global showdown over President Nicolas Maduro‘s rule.
The coordinated move by France, Spain, Germany, Britain, Portugal, Sweden, Denmark, Austria and the Netherlands on Monday came a day after the expiry of an eight-day ultimatum for Maduro to call a new election.
Latvia and Lithuania also lined up behind Guaido, the self-declared interim president who has the support of the United States and many South American nations.
The European countries urged Guaido to hold free and fair elections as soon as possible.
Italy blocked an EU statement saying the group recognised Guaido, the Reuters news agency reported citing diplomatic sources.
“We are working for the return of full democracy in Venezuela: human rights, elections and no more political prisoners,” Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said in a televised announcement.
He said Spain, which has a large Venezuelan community, is also working on a humanitarian aid programme for Venezuela, where shortages of basic items are acute. Critics of Maduro blame the Venezuelan government’s mismanagement for the lack of food and medical supplies.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said during a visit to Japan on Monday that Guaido “is the legitimate interim president”.
In a Twitter post, French President Emmanuel Macron declared Venezuelans have “the right to express themselves freely and democratically”, and said France recognises Guaido as an “acting president to implement an electoral process”.
Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom said the presidential election that brought Maduro to power last year was neither free nor fair and told Swedish broadcaster SVT that Venezuelans “now must get new, free and fair elections instead”.