European nations set to recognise Juan Guaidó as Venezuela’s leader


Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “European nations set to recognise Juan Guaidó as Venezuela’s leader” was written by Patrick Wintour Diplomatic editor, for The Guardian on Monday 4th February 2019 00.14 Asia/Kolkata

The UK, France, Germany and other European countries are expected to recognise Juan Guaidó as interim president of Venezuela on Monday if the current president, Nicolás Maduro, has not set a date for fresh elections by then.

EU leaders, including the Austrian chancellor, Sebastian Kurz, started expressing their support for Guaidó before the midnight deadline Sunday night.

The British foreign office minister, Sir Alan Duncan, is due to fly to Ottawa to meet European and Latin American leaders in a new international contact group to discuss the most effective ways of supporting Guaidó.

Canada’s foreign minister, Chrystia Freeland, said: “This crisis poses huge security, humanitarian and economic challenges for the entire hemisphere.”

France’s Europe minister, Nathalie Loiseau, foreshadowing the stance of most European leaders, said: “If by tonight Maduro does not commit to organising presidential elections, then France will consider Juan Guaidó as legitimate to organise them in his place and we will consider him as the interim president until legitimate elections in Venezuela [take place].”

She dismissed Maduro’s proposal of an early parliamentary election, calling it a farce, and said “the ultimatum ends tonight”.

France, Germany, Spain and the UK have been closely coordinating their support for Guaidó, assessing the best form of sanctions to press Maduro into holding the elections. None supports the kind of military intervention repeatedly suggested by the US president, Donald Trump. They regard Trump’s claim that a military option is on the table as counter-productive since it conjures up memories of past US destablisation in Latin America.

The EU as a whole was unable to come to a collective stance on Venezuela last week when the Five Star wing of the Italian coalition government objected to recognition of Guaidó.

There are divisions on the issue not just within the Italian coalition, but also within the Five Star Movement (M5S). Luigi Di Maio, Italy’s deputy prime minister and leader of M5S, defended his refusal to recognise Guaidó as interim president saying he “had not been elected by the people”.

So far the US and about 20 other countries have recognised, or are on the brink of recognising, Guaidó. But Russia, China, Turkey and Cuba have defended Maduro, rejecting outside interference as orchestrated by Trump. Canada and the Lima Group of Latin American countries aiming to find a solution to the Venezuela crisis recognised Guaidó on 23 January.

Much of the Ottawa meeting will be taken up with the humanitarian consequences of the crisis. Freeland’s diplomatic service has played a backroom role in helping organise the opposition to coalesce around Guaidó. She said: “The Maduro regime is now fully entrenched as a dictatorship.”

On Sunday Canada’s prime minister, Justin Trudeau, spoke to the Spanish prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, to coordinate the call for elections. He has said the aim of the Ottawa meeting is to push for peace, democracy and stability.

One proposal is to seize “corruptly obtained” overseas assets belonging to members of the Maduro regime and use the cash to ease the humanitarian crisis as Venezuelan refugees flee abroad, such as to Columbia.

The Labour party in the UK has not recognised Guaidó, despite his being a member of Socialist International, though it has stepped up its criticism of Maduro, once a close ally of Jeremy Corbyn.

The shadow attorney general, Lady Chakrabarti, speaking on Sunday to Sky News, said: “Last year’s reporting on Venezuela is pretty damning and that’s in terms of disappearances, that’s in terms of crushing dissent, that’s in terms of reports of torture, of prisoners and political prisoners, and it is completely unacceptable.

“I think it is incumbent on people like me, as a member of the left, to call out governments and states of the left because human rights have to be applied with an even hand.”

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European nations set to recognise Juan Guaidó as Venezuela's leader - NORTH INDIA KALEIDOSCOPE

Rajesh Ahuja

I am a veteran journalist based in Chandigarh India.I joined the profession in June 1982 and worked as a Staff Reporter with the National Herald at Delhi till June 1986. I joined The Hindu at Delhi in 1986 as a Staff Reporter and was promoted as Special Correspondent in 1993 and transferred to Chandigarh. I left The Hindu in September 2012 and launched my own newspaper ventures including this news portal and a weekly newspaper NORTH INDIA KALEIDOSCOPE (currently temporarily suspended).