Speed Reads

crisis in venezuela

European nations recognize Juan Guaidó as Venezuelan president, in blow to Maduro

On Monday, several European nations, including Britain, France, Spain, Portugal, and Sweden, recognized Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó as the country's legitimate interim president, withdrawing support from President Nicolas Maduro. The U.S. and most South American nations recognized Guaidó as Venezuela's interim leader after he swore himself in as president on Jan. 23. European Union nations had given Maduro a deadline of Sunday to call new elections. Because he didn't, British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt tweeted, Britain has thrown its recognition to Guaidó "until credible elections can be held. Let's hope this takes us closer to ending humanitarian crisis."

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez was the first European leader to announce the shift in policy, telling reporters that "we are working for the return of full democracy in Venezuela: human rights, elections, and no more political prisoners." Because of Spain's strong economic and cultural ties to Venezuela, Sanchez's decision was seen as an especially hard blow to Maduro.

In an interview with Spanish TV station Antena 3 broadcast Sunday, Maduro rejected the EU deadline. "We don't accept ultimatums from anyone," he said. "I refuse to call for elections now — there will be elections in 2024." Maduro suggested the power struggle could end in civil war, depending on "the level of madness and aggressiveness of the northern empire [the U.S.] and its Western allies."

Later on Monday, the Lima Group — Canada and 13 Latin American nations — is meeting to discuss how to increase pressure on Maduro to hold new elections and how to aid the people of Venezuela. Most members of the group favor pressuring Maduro to quit and hand power to Guaidó, but Mexico opposes any measures to force Maduro out. Russia, China, and Turkey also back Maduro. "The most important issue now is to get Europe in line and to deepen the isolation of Venezuela and its backers," a Colombian government official told Reuters on Sunday.