Global powers disagree over rightful Venezuelan leader

Opposition leader and self-proclaimed "acting president" Juan Guaido, seen here with his daughter Miranda and wife Fabiana Rosales, has accused socialist leader Nicolas Maduro's security forces of going to his home and trying to intimidate his family
Opposition leader and self-proclaimed "acting president" Juan Guaido, seen here with his daughter Miranda and wife Fabiana Rosales, has accused socialist leader Nicolas Maduro's security forces of going to his home and trying to intimidate his family.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

CARACAS • Global jostling has intensified between countries that want Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro in power and those trying to force him to resign, as opposition leader Juan Guaido made overtures to his rival's allies Russia and China.

The European Parliament recognised on Thursday Mr Guaido as the de facto head of state in a largely symbolic move that heightened international pressure on Mr Maduro.

Separately, the bloc agreed at a meeting of foreign ministers in Bucharest on Thursday to lead an international contact group with South American nations to help resolve Venezuela's political crisis by seeking new elections, European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said.

Despite accusing Mr Maduro of stifling democracy, the European Union was nervous over the precedent Mr Guaido has set by declaring himself interim leader. Hence, it was reluctant to follow the United States and most Latin American nations with immediate recognition of Mr Guaido as Venezuela's leader.

Meanwhile, the 35-year-old Mr Guaido argued that Russia and China's interests would be best served by switching sides and backing him instead in Venezuela, an Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries member which has the world's largest oil reserves but is in dire financial straits.

Mr Guaido said he had sent communications to both Russia and China, which are Venezuela's top foreign creditors and support Mr Maduro on the United Nations Security Council despite worries about the cash-strapped country's ability to pay.

"What most suits Russia and China is the country's stability and a change of government," Mr Guaido said. But Russia issued a statement yesterday that it did not recognise Mr Guaido as Venezuela's president.

 
 

The intense pressure on Mr Maduro is led by the United States, which along with most other countries in the Western Hemisphere, recognises Mr Guaido as the country's legitimate interim president, arguing that Mr Maduro stole his second-term election.

Meanwhile, Mr Guaido said on Thursday that elite security forces went to his home to threaten his family, heightening fears for his safety. The police's special action force, FAES, had gone to his home to interview his wife, Mr Guaido said during a speech at the Central University of Venezuela in Caracas.

"At this moment, the dictatorship believes that it will intimidate us," Mr Guaido said, with his wife by his side.

Mr Guaido said he had a 20-month-old daughter at home and would be holding FAES accountable for "whatever they do to my baby". He told officials, "Do not cross the red line."

But the National Police tweeted it was "totally false" that there had been a search of Mr Guaido's family.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 02, 2019, with the headline 'Global powers disagree over rightful Venezuelan leader'. Print Edition | Subscribe