Mon | Nov 11, 2019

EU nations step up pressure on Venezuela’s Maduro

Published:Tuesday | February 5, 2019 | 12:15 AM
Supporters of President Nicolas Maduro wave Venezuelan national flags during a rally in Caracas, Venezuela, Saturday, February 2, 2019.
Supporters of President Nicolas Maduro wave Venezuelan national flags during a rally in Caracas, Venezuela, Saturday, February 2, 2019.

A key group of European Union countries endorsed Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó as the country’s interim president on Monday, piling the pressure on embattled President Nicolás Maduro to resign and let the country hold a new presidential election.

Maduro, for his part, stood defiant, accusing the United States of preparing a coup in the South American country and rejecting a United States-backed effort to send emergency food and medicine into his country.

“We are not beggars,” Maduro said on Venezuelan state TV.

Spain, Germany, France, and Britain delivered diplomatic blows to Maduro’s rule by publicly supporting Guaidó after giving Maduro a Sunday deadline to call a presidential election, which he did not heed. Sweden, Denmark, Austria, the Netherlands, Lithuania, Finland, the Czech Republic, and Portugal also lined up behind Guaidó, the self-declared interim president who also has the support of the United States and many South American nations.

The European countries urged Guaidó to hold free and fair elections as soon as possible.

“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 that 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.

British Prime Minister Theresa May’s spokesman, James Slack, said Britain is considering imposing sanctions to help bring about change in Venezuela.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said during a visit to Japan on Monday that Guaidó “is the legitimate interim president”.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, speaking to France Inter Radio, appealed for an early presidential election that would ensure that “the Venezuelan crisis ends peacefully.”

Maduro said on Monday that he has written to Pope Francis asking for help in fostering dialogue. He said in an interview with Italy’s Sky TG24 that he hopes the letter is en route or has reached the Vatican.

Guaidó on Twitter expressed his gratitude to the EU leaders for supporting Venezuela’s fight for freedom.

AP