European nations recognize Venezuela’s Guaido

OVIEDO (AA): As an eight-day ultimatum to call fresh elections in Venezuela expired, nearly a dozen European nations on Monday announced they now recognize opposition leader Juan Guaido as the nation’s interim president.

Upping the ante in the crisis, Spain, Britain, France, Sweden, Germany, and Denmark early Monday announced they no longer recognize incumbent President Nicolas Maduro as Venezuela’s legitimate leader.

The recognition of Guaido, according to Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, making his announcement in a televised speech, has one clear objective: “free and democratic elections” in Venezuela as soon as possible.

Jeremy Hunt, Britain’s foreign secretary, tweeted: “Nicolas Maduro has not called presidential elections within 8-day limit we have set. So UK alongside European allies now recognises @jguaido as interim constitutional president until credible elections can be held.”

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said on Twitter that they regret Maduro’s decision to reject EU calls for free and fair elections.

“For us Guaido is the interim president, in accordance with the Venezuelan constitution, to organize free, fair and democratic elections,” he said.

Since the beginning of the crisis last month, Turkey has steadfastly stood behind Maduro, saying recognizing Guaido is undemocratic and amounts to promoting a coup.

Later Monday, Austria, the Netherlands, Latvia, and the Czech Republic also announced their recognition of Guaido as the interim president.

The countries released separate statements employing shared language: “We recognize Guaido as constitutional interim president of the country until free and democratic elections take place in Venezuela.”

Sebastian Kurz, Austria’s prime minister, tweeted in Spanish that Maduro has refused to hold free and fair elections.

“As of now, we recognize President Juan Guaido as the interim president of the country under the Venezuelan constitution,” he added.

Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom also said: “We never accepted the result of elections when Maduro was elected president. We see Juan Guaido and [the] National Assembly as the only legitimate representative of Venezuela and we support them.”

These European nations now join the U.S., Canada and several Latin American countries in recognizing Guaido as interim leader.