The UK has joined together with France, Germany and Spain in a bid to force new elections in Venezuela, where President Nicolas Maduro is clinging on to power.
Britain backed the European demand with foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt saying it is now clear that Maduro is “not the legitimate leader” of the South American country.
The UK has already thrown its weight behind opposition leader Juan Guaido, who Downing Street recognised earlier this week as the leader of the country’s “democratically elected” assembly.
The joint European diplomatic push began on Saturday when Spain’s prime minister Pedro Sanchez said in statement: “The government of Spain gives Nicolas Maduro eight days to call free, transparent and democratic elections.
“If that doesn’t happen, Spain will recognise Juan Guaido as interim president in charge of calling these elections.”
French president Emmanuel Macron sent a tweet echoing Sanchez’s comments almost simultaneously.
He said: “Unless elections are announced within eight days, we will be ready to recognise [Mr Guaido] as ‘President in charge’ of Venezuela in order to trigger a political process.”
A spokeswoman from the German government tweeted the same message shortly after the comments from Madrid and Paris.
Mr Hunt joined the group on social media, writing: “After banning opposition candidates, ballot box stuffing and counting irregularities in a deeply flawed election it is clear Nicolas Maduro is not the legitimate leader of Venezuela.
“If there are not fresh & fair elections announced within 8 days UK will recognise him as interim President to take forward the political process towards democracy. Time for a new start for the suffering ppl of Venezuela”.
Earlier in the week the Theresa May’s spokesman said: “We fully support the democratically-elected national assembly, with Juan Guaido as its president.”
The United States first declared support for Guaido, with vice president Mike Pence calling Maduro “a dictator with no legitimate claim to power”.
Since then, most Latin American nations and Canada have all said they back the 35-year-old opposition leader. Russia, meanwhile, has vowed to support Maduro and accused the United States of trying to usurp power in Venezuela.
Venezuela has sunk into turmoil under Maduro with food shortages and daily protests amid an economic and political crisis that has sparked mass emigration and inflation that the International Monetary Fund forecasts will rise to 10 million per cent this year.
Maduro cruised to re-election in May last year amid a low turnout and allegations of vote-buying by the government. The domestic opposition, the United States and right-leaning Latin American governments declined to recognise the result of the vote.
Guaido proclaimed himself interim president on Wednesday though Maduro, who has led the oil-rich nation since 2013 and has the support of the armed forces, has refused to stand down.
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