Greece, Germany Support Venezuela's Elected Maduro

Virginia Carson
January 26, 2019

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said on Friday the government would defend Citgo, the USA refining subsidiary of state oil company PDVSA, as opposition leader and self-proclaimed president Juan Guaido reportedly considers naming a Citgo board. The vote was boycotted by Venezuela's main opposition parties, with Maduro's two most popular rivals banned from running and Socialist Party aggressive campaigning opponents called vote-buying.

In Washington, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo kept up the pressure on the leftist leader, as the United States called for an emergency UN Security Council meeting on the crisis. Washington has refused to comply, but ordered its non-essential staff to leave the tumultuous country, citing security concerns.

"No one wants fake dialogue... the only thing we want to negotiate is the end of the usurpation", he told a crowd clustered in a plaza in Caracas' Chacao district, an opposition stronghold.

Separately, Russian lawmakers said US support for moves to force Maduro from power amounted to backing an illegal coup d'etat, underlining how anxious Moscow is about one of its closest allies losing office.

That was swiftly followed by similar statements from Canada and a slew of right-leaning Latin American governments, including Venezuela's neighbours Brazil and Colombia.

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Venezuela has been rocked by protests since January 10 when Maduro was sworn in for a second term following a vote boycott by the opposition. "Those guarantees are for all those who are willing to side with the constitution to recover the constitutional order". President Donald Trump this week supported Guaido's claim to power.

Bachelet, a former president of Chile who dealt with Maduro in her previous role, called for "immediate talks to defuse the increasingly incendiary atmosphere" in Venezuela. Maduro visited Moscow in December, seeking Russia's political and financial support.

The judicial branch joined the armed forces in expressing their support for the elected government, after Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino Lopez said the military remained loyal to Maduro.

The European Union called for free elections to restore democracy. Rank-and-file troops struggling to put food on the table may not share their steadfast loyalty, but the odds of a significant faction defecting and recognizing Guaido are slim, several current and former military officers said. While yesterday's protest drew tens of thousands to the streets and over a dozen nations in the region are pledging support, the military's backing is far from certain.

In a video earlier this week, Guaido said the constitution requires the military to disavow Maduro after his May 2018 re-election, which was widely condemned by the worldwide community because his main opponents were banned from running.

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Protesters clashed with security forces on Wednesday night around the country and in both affluent and working class areas of Caracas, with some demonstrations spilling over into looting. Venezuela owes more than $20 billion.

"From a constitutional, humanitarian, and democratic perspective - and according to worldwide law - there was no option left for the United States and the global community but to recognize Juan Guaido as the interim president of Venezuela", Moises Rendon, associate director and associate fellow of the CSIS Americas Program, told VOA.

Countries from across the globe then risk being drawn into the conflict.

Many Venezuelans are awaiting Guaido's guidance on the often-beleaguered opposition's next steps.

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