Nine EU states recognise Guaido as Venezuela's president, increasing pressure on Maduro

A key group of European powers delivered a diplomatic blow to embattled Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro by publically endorsing opposition leader Juan Guaido as the country's legitimate interim president Monday.

Inside the country, opposition figurehead Juan Guaido, 35, is vying to lure military commanders to switch their allegiance to him away from President Nicolas Maduro, 56.

Sanchez told reporters "we are working for the return of full democracy in Venezuela", as Spain, France, and Sweden join countries that have recognized Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido as the nation's interim president.

United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres said he was available to facilitate negotiations between the rival sides in Venezuela.

Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom said the election that brought Maduro to power was neither free nor fair and told Swedish broadcaster SVT on Monday that Venezuelans "now must get new, free and fair elections instead". Those who continue to violate the human rights of ordinary Venezuelans under an illegitimate regime will be called to account.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced $53-million in new Canadian funding to support the needs of Venezuelans, including the three million refugees who have been forced to flee the humanitarian crisis in the country.

In a video statement posted on Twitter, Sanchez recognised Guaido as interim leader and called for new elections "as soon as possible".

"Venezuela has to be the master of its own destiny, and it is up to the worldwide community to help and respect the outcome of the democratic process and verify that it takes place with all necessary guarantees", he said.

"The Bolivarian republic of Venezuela expresses its most energetic rejection of the decision by some European governments, which officially submit to the strategy of the USA administration to topple the government", Foreign Minister, Jorge Arreaza, tweeted.


Guaido said in a newspaper interview published on Monday he would do all he could to secure Rome's backing, but Italy's coalition parties took opposing positions.

He added that Venezuela is being "threatened by the biggest powers in the world".

Foreign ministers from the Lima Group countries - Canada, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Panama, Paraguay, Peru and Saint Lucia, alongside representatives from the U.K, the European Union and the USA - met in Ottawa today to further solidify support for Guaido as protests over the legitimacy of Maduro's government continue to fill the streets in Venezuela.

The Vatican didn't immediately respond to a request for comment on Maduro's appeal.

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

"We are not beggars", Maduro said on Venezuelan state TV. "The moment is now", Guaido said in a speech on Monday in Caracas, urging the military to allow humanitarian aid to reach people.

Theories about a potential US military incursion into Venezuela multiplied after US National Security Adviser John Bolton was spotted with a notepad that mentioned "5,000 troops to Colombia".

Under Maduro's stewardship, oil-dependent Venezuela has lurched into an economic crisis that has left the country suffering from hyperinflation and shortages of food and medicine.


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