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European leaders to recognise Venezuela’s Guaido if no elections called

Yuri Cortez, AFP | Venezuela's Juan Guaido (left) has proclaimed himself interim president and declared that President Nicolas Maduro's inauguration this month was illegitimate.

Spain, France, Germany and the UK on Saturday said they would recognise opposition leader Juan Guaido as Venezuela’s president unless elections are called within eight days, as Washington urged countries to “pick a side” in the fast-moving crisis.

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"If within eight days there are no fair, free and transparent elections called in Venezuela, Spain will recognise Juan Guaido as Venezuelan president" so that he himself can call such polls, Spain's Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said in a televised announcement.

French President Emmanuel Macron followed suit with a tweet in Spanish, saying, "The Venezuelan people must be able to freely decide on their future", as did German government spokeswoman Martina Fietz.

'They should call for elections with a new system'

The United Nations Security Council met on Saturday at the request of the United States after Washington and a string of countries in the region recognised Guaido as head of state and urged President Nicolas Maduro to step down.

"Now it is time for every other nation to pick a side. No more delays, no more games. Either you stand with the forces of freedom, or you're in league with Maduro and his mayhem," Mike Pompeo, the US secretary of state, told the Council.

The coordinated announcements by Paris, Berlin, Madrid and London are the most explicit yet from EU countries as the 28-member bloc struggles to draft a joint statement with regards to its position on the crisis in Venezuela.

Empty shelves in Venezuela's supermarkets

Guaido and Maduro have been locked in a power struggle since the 35-year-old leader of Venezuela's opposition-controlled legislature proclaimed himself "acting president" on Wednesday, declaring that Maduro's inauguration this month for a new six-year term was illegitimate.

For his part, Venezuela's foreign minister offered a forthright rebuke to the European countries' ultimatum.

"Nobody is going to give us deadlines or tell us if there are elections or not," Jorge Arreaza told a special session of the United Nations Security Council.

"Europe, putting yourself at the tail of the United States? Not even the United States, but of the Donald Trump government?" he said.

"From where do you get the power to issue deadlines or ultimatums to a sovereign people? From where do you come up with such interventionist and, I would even say, childish action?"

Russia calls US ‘shameless and aggressive’

The Venezuelan state and the military have so far remained loyal to Maduro despite a deep economic and political crisis that has sparked mass emigration, with inflation forecast to rise to 10 million percent this year.

Juan Guaido: The face of Venezuela's anti-Maduro opposition

Russia unsuccessfully tried to stop the Security Council meeting. Moscow opposes the US efforts and has accused Washington of backing a coup attempt, placing Venezuela at the heart of a growing geopolitical duel.

"Venezuela does not represent a threat to peace and security," Russia's UN Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia told the Security Council.

"If anything does represent a threat to peace, it is the shameless and aggressive action of the United States and their allies aimed at the ouster of the legitimately elected President of Venezuela," he said.

Russia, China, South Africa and Equatorial Guinea blocked a US push for a UN Security Council statement expressing full support for Venezuela's National Assembly as the country's "only democratically elected institution".

The same four countries also voted against holding the Security Council meeting. Nine countries voted in favour of the meeting, while Ivory Coast and Indonesia abstained.

Pompeo accused Russia and China of "propping up a failed regime in the hopes of recovering billions of dollars in ill-considered investments and assistance made over the years".

(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS and AFP)

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