Europe is trying to force Venezuela to hold new elections as its political crisis continues to spiral

  • Four European Union countries gave Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro a hard deadline of Saturday to call new elections amid political turmoil.
  • The countries say that if Maduro doesn’t call new elections, they plan to formally recognise Maduro’s opponent Juan Guaidó as interim president.
  • Maduro’s government said other countries had no “power to issue deadlines or ultimatums to a sovereign people.”
  • Guaidó has called for more protests in the country this week. At least seven people died in anti-government clashes last week.

Several European countries have given the embattled Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro a deadline of Saturday to call new elections or, in their eyes, lose his legitimacy.

His rival, the opposition leader and self-declared interim president, Juan Guaidó, has called for more protests amid the political turmoil.

“The government of Spain gives Nicolás Maduro eight days to call free, transparent and democratic elections,” Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez said in a statement on Saturday.

“If that doesn’t happen, Spain will recognise Juan Guaidó as interim president in charge of calling these elections,” he added.

Britain, Germany, and France echoed Sánchez’s call shortly afterward, with UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt tweeting: “After banning opposition candidates, ballot box stuffing and counting irregularities in a deeply flawed election it is clear Nicolás Maduro is not the legitimate leader of Venezuela.”

In other words, Maduro has until Saturday to call new elections, or else the EU countries have threatened to officially recognise Guaidó as interim president.

Tens of thousands of Venezuelans rallied behind Guaidó last week to call on Maduro to step down. They say Maduro’s presidency is unconstitutional and fraudulent.

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Juan Guaido
Guaidó at a rally in eastern Caracas, Venezuela, on Friday. He declared himself Venezuela’s interim president last week. LUIS ROBAYO/AFP/Getty Images

Maduro’s government seems unlikely to obey the European ultimatum. “From where do you get the power to issue deadlines or ultimatums to a sovereign people?” Agence France-Presse cited Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza as saying.

Maduro’s allies in the Venezuelan military and around the world – in Russia, China, Turkey, and Syria – cited their opposition to foreign interference as their reasons for supporting the incumbent president, who is presiding over the world’s worst economic crisis.

The US, Canada, and almost all of Latin America have formally declared their support for Guaidó and recognised him as interim president.

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Guaidó on Sunday called on supporters to continue protesting Maduro this Wednesday and Saturday in “every corner of Venezuela” and around the world.

At least seven people died as military personnel and protesters clashed at anti-Maduro rallies last week, according to the Associated Press.

More than 350 people were also detained in the protests, AFP reported, citing UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet.

The Bank of England blocked Venezuelan government officials from withdrawing $US1.2 billion worth of gold from its vaults, Bloomberg reported.

The gold is part of $US8 billion in foreign reserves held by the Venezuelan central bank. Maduro has been trying to access it since at least last December.

Gold in bank of england
Inside the Bank of England’s gold bullion vault. The central bank reportedly blocked Maduro’s officials from withdrawing $US1.2 billion worth of gold out of the Bank of England amid the political chaos. YouTube

People in Venezuela are living with hyperinflation, power cuts, and food shortages as Maduro appears to live luxuriously.

More than a million Venezuelans have fled as refugees into neighbouring Colombia, with hundreds of thousands more in Peru, Ecuador, Argentina, Chile, and Brazil.

Though the EU has said it supports fresh elections, not all member states have that stance on the South American country. Greece’s ruling left-wing Syriza party pledged “full support and solidarity” for Maduro.