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Germany, U.K. Recognize Guaido as Europe Firms Venezuela Stance

Juan Guaido, president of the National Assembly who swore himself in as the leader of Venezuela, waves during a pro-opposition protest in Caracas, Venezuela, on Saturday, Feb. 2, 2019. Thousands of opponents of Venezuela's socialist regime marched in Caracas as pressure builds at home and abroad for President Nicolas Maduro to step down. Photographer: Carlos Becerra/Bloomberg

The U.K., Germany and France led a host of European countries in recognizing Venezuelan National Assembly leader Juan Guaido as the country’s interim president on Monday, joining an international push led by the U.S. censuring Nicolas Maduro and calling for new elections.

Spain, Austria, the Netherlands and Poland also said this week they would support Guaido. Several of these nations said on Jan. 26 that they would recognize Guaido in the event Maduro refused to call elections within eight days. The European Union failed to jointly support the head of the National Assembly when countries including Italy vetoed a push to make that the position of the whole bloc.

“Juan Guaido is now the person with whom we’re speaking and whom we expect to initiate an election process as quickly as possible,” German Chancellor Angela Merkel said in Tokyo. “For this task, he is the legitimate interim president, from Germany’s perspective and from the perspective of many European partners. We hope that this process can take place in the shortest possible time frame and of course peacefully.”

The political crisis in oil-rich Venezuela has provoked a worldwide split, with a U.S.-led group of countries that have already recognized Guaido as interim president pitted against nations such as Russia and China that support Maduro.

“Nicolas Maduro has not called Presidential elections within 8 day limit we have set,” U.K. Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said in a post on Twitter. French President Emmanuel Macron said in a tweet that “Venezuelans have the right to express themselves freely and democratically.” “For this reason, we now consider the President @jguaido as the lawful interim President in accordance with the Venezuelan Constitution,” Austrian chancellor Sebastian Kurz tweeted.

Read More: Venezuela’s Guaido Wants China to See Maduro Is Bad for Business

Last week, the EU’s top diplomat sounded a warning about the outlook for Venezuela amid the political standoff in the country. “I tend to be an optimist; in this case, I do not have particularly positive expectations,” EU foreign-policy chief Federica Mogherini told reporters on Friday in Bucharest, as she announced the bloc could consider new sanctions against Maduro.

A joint statement firming EU’s stance on Venezuela was being debated among national government envoys and may be issued later on Monday. DM

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