UK threatens to recognise Venezuela’s opposition leader unless new elections called | World News

Britain has threatened to recognise Venezuela’s opposition leader as Western nations increase the pressure on the crisis-hit country’s president, Nicolas Maduro.

Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said the UK would recognise Juan Guaido, 35, as interim president unless Mr Maduro announces fair elections within eight days.

Mr Hunt tweeted: “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.

“@jguaido is the right person to take Venezuela forward. 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.”

His intervention echoed that by Germany, France and Spain, who, in an apparently concerted move, also said they would recognise Mr Guaido in the absence of new presidential elections.

 Juan Guaido proclaims himself president of Venezuela
Juan Guaido has proclaimed himself president of Venezuela

A spokeswoman for German Chancellor Angela Merkel tweeted on Saturday that “the people of Venezuela must be able to freely and securely decide about its future”.

French President Emmanuel Macron and Spain’s Prime Minister, Pedro Sanchez, made similar announcements.

Maduro with his wife Cilia Flores, vice president Delcy Rodriguez and Diosdado Cabello address supporters
Nicolas Maduro with his wife Cilia Flores (L) calls attempts to remove him a ‘coup’

America’s top diplomat, secretary of state Mike Pompeo, told the United Nations Security Council on Saturday that it was time for countries to “pick a side” after Washington recognised Mr Guaido as the South American nation’s head of state.

“Now it is time for every other nation to pick a side… Either you stand with the forces of freedom, or you’re in league with Maduro and his mayhem,” Mr Pompeo told a meeting on Venezuela.

Sky’s Stuart Ramsay reports from Caracas on putative president, Juan Guaido

Mr Maduro, 56, whose time in office has been marked by economic collapse, hyperinflation and shortages of many basic items, was sworn in for a second term as president earlier this month.

The legitimacy of his victory in May has been questioned amid widespread claims of vote-rigging in a ballot boycotted by
opposition parties.

The chances of concerted action by the UN Security Council are limited by Russia’s opposition.

Russia’s UN ambassador, Vassily Nebenzia, opposed the meeting on Venezuela, saying it does not represent a threat to international peace and security.

An opposition rally in support of Juan Guaido

He accused Washington of attempting “a coup d’etat”, a charge Mr Maduro also levels at his opponents.

At least 20 people have died in protest-related violence, the UN said, and a big opposition rally is planned in Caracas next week.

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