European Powers Back Guaido as Trump Threatens Venezuela with Military ‘Option’

President Maduro reiterated that he will not have his arm "twisted” by “imperialist and colonial” ultimatums.

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Juan Guaido welcomed the support from the European powers. (Carlos Garcia Rawlins / Reuters)
Juan Guaido welcomed the support from the European powers. (Carlos Garcia Rawlins / Reuters)
By Paul Dobson
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Merida, February 4, 2019 (venezuelanalysis.com) – Venezuela’s government has rejected the decision of a handful of European governments to recognise the country’s National Assembly president, Juan Guaido, as ‘interim president.’

Seven governments, including the Spanish, British, French, and German, all followed through on an earlier promise to recognize the opposition politician as head of state should President Nicolas Maduro not call new presidential elections within eight days. They were joined by the governments of Sweden, Denmark, Portugal, Lithuania, Estonia, Latvia, Luxembourg, the Czech Republic, Hungary, the Netherlands, Finland, Austria and Poland.

“Given that we’ve reached today and Maduro’s regime hasn’t taken any steps whatsoever towards [calling elections], the government of Spain announces that it officially recognises Mr Guaido, the president of the Venezuelan assembly, as Venezuela’s caretaker president,” Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez told reporters at the Moncloa Palace in Madrid.

Britain’s Foreign Minister Jeremy Hunt, for his part, tweeted,“Let’s hope this takes us closer to ending humanitarian crisis.”

Germany went one step further by offering €5 million in aid, which will be released to Venezuelan authorities “as soon as circumstances allow.” They did not specify if the aid was earmarked for Guaido or for the Maduro government.

Meanwhile, the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo welcomed the move, urging other countries to join in recognizing the Washington-backed leader.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro slammed the European countries’ decision, declaring that “International politics cannot be based on ultimatums, this is from the period of empires and colonies... I will not have my arm twisted.”

Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza added that Caracas would conduct a “full revision” of relations with those European governments that “back coup mongering.”

The European governments’ announcement was also rejected by leftist parties across Europe, including Podemos and the Communist Party in Spain, Germany’s Die Linke, the UK’s Labour Party, as well as the Left Party in France.

Europe continues to be divided on the issue, with Italy, Greece and the Vatican all maintaining relations with the Maduro government and blocking a unified position by the European Union.

US military action ‘an option’

Guaido’s new boost in the international arena came as US President Donald Trump increased pressure on Caracas Sunday.

When asked during an interview with CBS, Trump once again refused to rule out direct military action, which he said remains “an option.” On previous occasions, he has been quoted asking his close advisors, “Why can’t we just invade [Venezuela].”

Trump also commented to CBS that he had turned down an offer from Maduro for dialogue, claiming that “things are going well.”

Despite resistance from both Trump and Guaido ̶ who has also dismissed talks with the Venezuelan government ̶ an international summit is due to be held in Montevideo, Uruguay, this Thursday to mediate the standoff. Bolivia, Mexico, Uruguay, Costa Rica, Ecuador, France, Italy, Holland, Portugal, Spain, UK, Sweden and Germany are expected to participate.

Maduro calls for parliamentary elections, Guaido for USAID

The decision by the European powers comes on the heels of competing rallies held by both Maduro and Guaido in Caracas on Saturday. Unlike the January 23 demonstrations, no violent outbreaks were reported this weekend.

Speaking to a multitude of supporters, Maduro called for the bringing forward of parliamentary elections by one year to “refresh” the institution. Elections to Venezuela’s opposition-controlled National Assembly are scheduled for 2020; however the government argues that it is necessary to bring them forward as the body has been declared in contempt since 2016 with all of its decisions “null and void.” Maduro did not propose any timetable for the possible elections.

On the other side of Caracas, Juan Guaido likewise addressed supporters, telling them that international humanitarian aid was en route to the country.

The aid, he explained, is to be supplied by US government agency USAID and warehoused in three separate locations, including the Colombian border city of Cucuta, a yet to be disclosed Caribbean island, and across the Brazilian border.

Doubts remain, however, whether the Venezuelan armed forces and border staff, who remain loyal to President Maduro, will allow USAID operators to enter the country. In efforts to provoke a rupture in the chain of command, on Saturday Guaido “ordered” the armed forces to allow the aid to enter the country. Maduro had previously raised concerns that the delivery of aid may be used as a pretext for a military invasion.

The International Red Cross, which currently supplies a number of Venezuelan hospitals, also clarified its position on Monday, explaining that any aid must be delivered in accordance with local authorities. Red Cross Spokesperson Dominik Stillhart added that he had held “hard discussions” with the Trump administration and that Guaido’s USAID plan has a “political tone.”

Edited by Lucas Koerner from Caracas.

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