EU nations give Venezuela’s Maduro eight-day ultimatum

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Spain, France and Germany have given embattled Venezuelan leader Nicolas Maduro an ultimatum, saying the nations would recognise opposition leader Juan Guaido as president unless he calls elections within eight days.

“If within eight days there are no fair, free and transparent elections called in Venezuela, Spain will recognise Juan Guaido as Venezuelan president,” Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said in a televised announcement on Saturday.

Guaido, the 35-year-old head of the National Assembly, proclaimed himself acting president of Venezuela during massive street rallies this week.

He is trying to remove Maduro from the economically strapped country following controversial elections that saw the socialist leader sworn in for a second term.

Maduro’s reelection last year was contested by the opposition and criticised internationally – but he has until now retained the loyalty of the powerful military.

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The United States, Brazil, Argentina and other countries had already endorsed Guaido in repudiation of Maduro.

Spain is closely linked to Venezuela, a former colony, as some 200,000 of its nationals live there.

Since his self-proclamation as interim leader, Guaido has rejected an offer of talks with Maduro and called for a “major demonstration”.

French President Emmanuel Macron echoed the Spanish ultimatum.

“Unless elections are announced within eight days, we will be ready to recognise @jguaido as ‘President in charge’ of Venezuela in order to trigger a political process,” Macron said on his Twitter feed.

A spokesperson of the German government issued a similar statement later on Saturday.

The United Nations Security Council will meet on Saturday at the request of the US to discuss the situation in Venezuela.

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Despite Guaido’s international endorsements, Maduro still has the support of the military and powerful, longtime allies like Russia and China and is vowing to defend his socialist rule.

Guaido on Friday vowed to remain on the streets until his country has a transitional government, while Maduro dug in and accused his opponents of orchestrating a coup.

Guaido’s talk with reporters in a plaza in Caracas turned into a de facto rally as thousands gathered after hearing he would speak in public for the first time since taking a symbolic oath on Wednesday proclaiming himself the nation’s rightful leader.

SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies

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