European Union nations get behind Venezuela's Juan Guaido as acting president

European Union nations get behind Venezuela's Juan Guaido as acting president

Mogherini added it was not up to the European Union to recognise countries and their leaders, as it is a matter for European Union countries to decide whether they should diplomatically recognise a nation and its leaders.

But key Maduro ally Russian Federation slammed European "interference" in the oil-rich but impoverished Latin American country, saying it was an attempt "to legitimize usurped power".

Guaido, who heads the opposition-controlled National Assembly, addressed the gathering in a video message, saying he looked forward to having "free and fair elections as soon as possible in order to restore democracy to Venezuela".

She said that Guaido derives his legitimacy from being the leader of the national assembly in Venezuela.

Some EU members are nervous about setting a precedent of recognising a self-proclaimed leader.

Despite Guaido's pleas for their support, the armed forces - the country's key power - have remained loyal to Maduro, but the opposition leader has expressed confidence he will win over senior officers after a top air force general publicly sided with him on Saturday.

Maduro denies the existence of a humanitarian crisis, calling it a fabrication by Venezuela's enemies to sow instability and justify a military intervention.

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

The US and other countries have already pledged humanitarian aid for Guaido's administration, though it remains to be seen where and how it can enter the country without the military's support.

"The moment is now", Guaido said in a speech on Monday in Caracas, urging the military to allow humanitarian aid to reach people. A growing list of 38 countries has now recognized Guaido, including non-EU European nations Kosovo, Iceland and Albania.

Guaido accused Maduro's government of trying to move up to $1.2 billion from the state development bank Bandes to a financial entity in Uruguay, but did not present evidence. Sweden, Denmark, Austria, the Netherlands, Lithuania, Finland, the Czech Republic and Portugal also lined up behind Guaido, the self-declared interim president who also has the support of the United States and many South American nations. The European Parliament has called on all EU countries to do so.

Juan Guaido, Venezuelan opposition leader and parliament speaker, whose appointment to that position had been cancelled by the country's Supreme Court, declared himself interim president at a rally in the country's capital of Caracas on January 23.

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

Since 2007, up to 4 million Venezuelans have left the country - with 2 million between 2016-17 alone (an exodus rate higher than that of Syria's).

Maduro began a new term in office last month after disputed 2018 elections whose results were rejected as invalid by the opposition.

In his interview Monday, he supported plans for a meeting of Latin American and European Union states in a "Contact Group" in Montevideo on Thursday, saying it would lead to "dialogue".

Maduro accused Spanish Prime Minister, Pedro Sanchez, of having taken "a bad decision" in recognising Guaido.

"The worldwide community's goal should be to help [Venezuela], without destructive meddling from beyond its borders", Alexander Shchetinin, head of the Russian Foreign Ministry's Latin American department, told the Interfax news agency Monday. We did not participate, none of us, at the inauguration of Maduro on January 10.

Under anti-U.S. populist leader Hugo Chavez, Mr. Maduro's late predecessor and political mentor, Russian Federation became one of Venezuela's strongest allies with economic ties including crude oil, loans and arms sales.

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