- Several European Union countries last week demanded that Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro call new elections by Sunday amid the country’s political chaos.
- Maduro refused to do so, telling Spanish TV on Sunday that “we don’t accept ultimatums from anyone.”
- US President Donald Trump, who backs Juan Guaidó, Maduro’s opponent who has been recognised by several countries as Venezuela’s interim president, has said he is considering sending US troops to Venezuela.
- Maduro threatened to plunge Venezuela into civil war if Trump goes ahead with that plan.
The beleaguered Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro refused to call new elections in response to demands from several European countries.
He also warned that the US presidency would be “stained with blood” if President Donald Trump goes ahead with plans to intervene.
European Union countries including Austria, Britain, France, Germany, and Spain last week told Maduro to call fresh elections by Sunday or else they would formally recognise Maduro’s opponent, Juan Guaidó, as Venezuela’s interim president.
Guaidó, the National Assembly president, declared himself the country’s interim president last month. Critics of Maduro have accused him of vote-rigging in last May’s presidential election and say his presidency, which started January 10, is unconstitutional and fraudulent.
Tens of thousands of people have been protesting Maduro over the past month. Maduro has presided over one of the worst economic crises, leading to hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing Venezuela.
Maduro rejected the European countries’ call on Sunday, the day of the deadline, telling the Spanish TV channel La Sexta that “we don’t accept ultimatums from anyone.”
“It’s as if I told the European Union that I give it a few days to recognise the Republic of Catalonia,” he added, referring to the Spanish region of Catalonia’s failed attempt to break away from Spain in October 2017.
Catalonia’s regional president, Carles Puigdemont, declared autonomy from Spain after a contested referendum, and Madrid’s Constitutional Court canceled the independence bid the next month. Spanish authorities have since arrested and detained some of Puigdemont’s allies.
Britain, Denmark, France, Spain, Germany, the Netherlands, and Sweden formally recognised Guaidó as Venezuela’s interim president on Monday in response to Maduro’s refusal to organise new elections, Sky News reported.
‘Stop, stop, Donald Trump!’
Maduro on Sunday also warned that Trump’s presidency would be “stained with blood” if Trump decided to intervene in Venezuela.
Trump, who backs Guaidó as interim president, on Sunday said that sending troops to Venezuela was “an option.”
In response, Maduro threatened the possibility of his country descending into widespread violence.
When La Sexta asked whether the political turmoil could end in civil war, Maduro said, “Nobody can answer now with certainty.”
“Everything depends on the level of madness and aggressiveness of the northern empire,” he said, referring to the US.
He also told La Sexta that “thousands of innocent Venezuelans may end up paying with their lives … if the US empire attacks the country.”
“Stop, stop, Donald Trump!” Maduro said. “You are making mistakes that are going to stain your hands with blood, and you are going to leave the presidency stained with blood. Stop!”
He added: “Or is it that you are going to repeat a Vietnam in Latin America?”
Maduro on Sunday also warned Guaidó to “stop this coup-mongering strategy and stop simulating a presidency in which nobody elected him.”
Guaidó argued in The New York Times last week that his interim presidency was not a “self-proclamation” because the Venezuelan Constitution says that “if at the outset of a new term there is no elected head of state” he becomes interim president.
He said that since Maduro’s reelection was not legitimate, that condition has been fulfilled.
The US, the EU, Canada, and almost all of Latin America formally recognise Guaidó as interim president.
While military leaders in Venezuela declared their loyalty to Maduro two weeks ago, there are signs that some are breaking ranks. Reuters reported that a senior air force general recognised Guaidó as interim chief.
Russia, China, Turkey, Syria, Bolivia, and Cuba back Maduro and have accused countries supporting Guaidó of meddling in Venezuela’s domestic politics.
Russia on Monday said the EU’s coordinated move to recognise Guaidó amounted to foreign meddling, Sky News reported.