European Union nations recognise Guaido as Venezuela leader

European Union nations recognise Guaido as Venezuela leader

More than a dozen European Union countries endorsed Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido as the country's interim president on Monday, piling the pressure on embattled President Nicolas Maduro to resign and clear the way for a new presidential election. She rejected any suggestion that Canada or the Lima Group are fomenting an armed overthrow of the Maduro regime.

Guaido is trying to force from power the socialist leader - labelled a dictator by the West and his Latin American neighbors after presiding over Venezuela's economic collapse - aiming to set up a transitional government and hold new presidential elections.

Mr Maduro has ignored this call.

The European countries are urging Guaido to hold free and fair elections as soon as possible.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said during a visit to Japan on Monday that Guaido "is the legitimate interim president".

"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. "Attempts to legitimize usurped power" constituted "interference in Venezuela's internal affairs", President Vladimir Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.

British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt promptly followed suit, saying on Twitter he hoped "this takes us closer to ending humanitarian crisis". Emmanuel Macron then repeated this later on Monday.

The United States, Canada and several Latin American countries have disavowed Maduro over his disputed re-election past year and recognized self-proclaimed President Juan Guaido as the country's rightful leader.

"I don't accept ultimatums from anybody", Maduro told Spanish TV channel La Sexta.

"It marks this fight not as a fight of Trump versus Maduro or Latin America versus Maduro but a fight that is of the world against Maduro", said Julio Borges, an exiled opposition politician who has been key in building Guaido's strategy.

"I've turned it down because we're very far along in the process", he said in a "Face the Nation" interview.

Maduro's critics have said incompetent policies and corruption have impoverished the once-wealthy nation, leaving it with widespread shortages of food and medicine and hyperinflation forecast to reach 10 million percent in 2019.

The 35-year-old Guaido, head of the country's National Assembly, has breathed new life into a previously fractured and tired opposition.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke Sunday with Guaido, praising his "courage and leadership".

"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".

It is time for a new start, with free and fair elections in accordance with global democratic standards.

The US president has ruled out any negotiations while maintaining that sending the US military to Venezuela was "an option".

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.

After several years of opposition efforts to oust Maduro, Guaido declared himself acting president at a rally on January 23.

However, not all in the European Union have offered resounding support for the National Assembly leader.

Guaido has called for a new demonstration on February 12, and another protest to push for the entry of aid.

The 14-nation so-called Lima Group, which includes Canada and Latin American countries such as Brazil and Mexico but not the United States, met in Ottawa to discuss the way forward on Venezuela. "That is why it is time to increase pressure", Guaido said through an interpreter, his enlarged image hovering over the gathering on a movie-theatre-sized screen.

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