Venezuela's Maduro rejects European Union ultimatum on fresh elections

Virginia Carson
January 28, 2019

Maduro broke relations with the US on Wednesday after the Trump administration and many other nations in the region recognized Guaido, the head of the opposition-controlled National Assembly, as Venezuela's interim president, a move that Maduro denounced as a coup attempt.

For his part, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will on urge UN Security Council members at a Saturday meeting to recognise Guaido as interim president, the State Department said.

As the deadline expired, Maduro said he had begun negotiations to set up within 30 days an Interests Section in Caracas to maintain a minimum level of diplomatic contact, similar to the arrangement the U.S. had with Cuba until their 2015 rapprochement. No more delays, no more games.

Venezuela has backed down from their demand that U.S. diplomats leave the country, saying they're open to talks - as the Trump administration warned of a "significant response" if American personnel are threatened or intimidated. "Either you stand with the forces of freedom, or you're in league with Maduro and his mayhem".

In an interview with CNN Turk aired Sunday, Maduro rejected an ultimatum given to him by a number of European countries - to hold elections within eight days or else they would recognize 35-year-old opposition leader Juan Guaido as president.

Russian Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia charged that the Trump administration is trying "to engineer a coup" against Maduro.

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Maduro has by and large retained the loyalty of the country's armed forces, except for the defection of a military attache to Washington who pledged allegiance to Guaido.

"Pompeo, I see him desperate and full of hate".

After the Security Council debate, Guaido sent a letter to Secretary General Antonio Guterres asking the United Nations for help addressing hunger, violence and the lack of medicines in his country.

"Venezuela does not pose any threat to peace and security".

"Europe is giving us eight days?"

Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza dismissed the deadline.

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At a Caracas rally the Guaido said he would announce a date for "a grand march", and called on supporters to circulate copies of amnesty measures approved by the National Assembly to friends and relatives in the military.

"Australia calls for a transition to democracy in Venezuela as soon as possible".

"Any violence and intimidation against USA diplomatic personnel, Venezuela's democratic leader, Juan Guiado, or the National Assembly itself would represent a grave assault on the rule of law and will be met with a significant response", Bolton tweeted Sunday. "They are attacking us and they think Venezuela is their back garden", Maduro said.

But support for Maduro's rule is weaker among the rank and file, whose households are suffering from widespread shortages and hyperinflation like their civilian counterparts.

Some U.S. Embassy staff left Caracas on Friday, and Venezuela was withdrawing staff from Washington on Saturday, Venezuela's foreign ministry said in a statement. The uprising was quelled and 25 guardsmen were arrested.

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