EU countries part of 'a gringo plot' against Venezuela, Maduro claims
Britain, Germany and Spain were among 15 European nations to officially recognise Juan Guaido as the "interim president" of Venezuela yesterday, a move that was swiftly denounced by Nicolas Maduro as a "gringo plot to overthrow the revolution".
The governments followed the lead set by the United States, which on January 23 became the first country to declare Mr Guaido (35) the country's rightful ruler. They backed his argument that, as leader of the national assembly, he should take control because the presidency was left "vacant", due to Mr Maduro's sham re-election.
The Europeans gave Mr Maduro (56) an eight-day deadline to call fresh elections, or else have his authority removed. When that expired on Sunday, they announced the diplomatic change.
"From today, we will spare no effort in helping all Venezuelans achieve freedom, prosperity and harmony," said Pedro Sanchez, the Spanish prime minister.
Mr Maduro appeared particularly piqued by Madrid's participation in the announcement, singling out the Spaniards as "cowards".
Jose Luis Zapatero, Spain's former prime minister, led what were perhaps the most significant attempts at dialogue between the rival sides, with talks beginning in 2016 and breaking down at the end of last year.
Mr Maduro, in power since 2013, yesterday told a military rally in the northern state of Aragua that the European decision was "disastrous".
"I will defend with my very own life this homeland of Venezuela," he vowed. "I will carry on governing, together with the people, for the six years I have the right to govern for."
He also reiterated his accusations that the US was staging a coup.
Mr Maduro has written a letter to Pope Francis requesting a renewal of dialogue in the crisis. Mr Guaido has also asked the Argentine pontiff to intervene.
But the Pope has said that, although he was deeply concerned by the humanitarian suffering, he was not in a position to mediate.
Mexico and Uruguay have offered to host talks, and Mr Maduro said he was open to dialogue, but last week Mr Guaido rejected their offer.
Mr Guaido has called for further protests.
This weekend he plans to oversee a deliberate provocation of the military by ordering in supplies of humanitarian aid. Mr Maduro has said the aid will be turned away by his the army, while Mr Guaido has called on the troops to allow it in to help struggling citizens.
Meanwhile, the Lima Group, an association of American countries, recommended stopping short of further sanctions on Mr Maduro's regime.
Although the US has broached the idea of an oil embargo, the countries said it should not take such a drastic step. Mexico opposes any measures to oust Mr Maduro, who also has the backing of Turkey, Russia and China.
US President Donald Trump said military intervention in Venezuela was "an option", while the troubled Opec nation's ally Russia warned against "destructive meddling". (© Daily Telegraph London)