US, Europe Increase Pressure on Maduro after Parliament Stand-Off

By Sinikka Tarvainen  (dpa)

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro criticizes foreign intervention in his country.

HAVANA TIMES – The United States on Thursday called for “a swift negotiated transition to democracy” in Venezuela, while the European Union threatened the country with new sanctions following a stand-off over the election of the president of parliament.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said a negotiated transition “is the most effective and sustainable route to peace and prosperity in Venezuela.”

“Negotiations could open the path out of the crisis through a transitional government that will organize free and fair elections,” Pompeo said in a statement.

Opposition leader Juan Guaido’s year-long campaign to oust President Nicolas Maduro appeared to have been reinvigorated after his supporters stormed the National Assembly in a power struggle over who would preside over it earlier this week.

Both Guaido and pro-Maduro lawmaker Luis Parra were elected speakers of parliament. The Supreme Court was expected to take a stance on the stand-off, according to daily El Nacional.

The EU meanwhile expressed its support for Guaido as president of the National Assembly.

“In light of these serious acts and decisions undermining democracy, rule of law and human rights, the EU is ready to start work towards applying targeted measures against individuals involved in the violation of these principles and rights,” foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said in a statement.

The US has also expressed backing for Guaido. Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza on Thursday said that Washington had sent a document to foreign embassies with the aim of “intervening in [Venezuela’s] administrative and political processes” and of destabilizing the government, the national news agency AVN reported.

Maduro on Wednesday announced “special” military exercises for February 15 and 16 in order to strengthen the protection of the country’s cities. Venezuela faces threats from “US imperialism” and from its ally, Colombia, the president said.

Guaido has called protest rallies to claim control of parliament.

Guaido declared himself interim president on January 23 last year, openly challenging Maduro. Many countries, including the US and EU states, subsequently recognized him as Venezuela’s legitimate leader.

Maduro won a second term in controversial [uncompetitive and widely considered fraudulent] elections in 2018 and has overseen a massive economic crisis.

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