Venezuela President Nicolas Maduro rejects election ultimatum

ISTANBUL • Venezuela's embattled President Nicolas Maduro has rejected an international ultimatum to call elections within eight days and says opposition leader Juan Guaido has violated the country's Constitution by declaring himself leader.

"They should withdraw this ultimatum. No one can give us an ultimatum," Mr Maduro said in an interview with CNN Turk aired yesterday.

Mr Maduro also said he was open to dialogue and that meeting US President Donald Trump was improbable but not impossible.

Washington, which has recognised Mr Guaido as Venezuela's leader, on Saturday urged the world to "pick a side" and financially disconnect from Mr Maduro's government.

Britain, Germany, France and Spain all said they would recognise Mr Guaido if Mr Maduro failed to call fresh elections within eight days, an ultimatum Russia said was "absurd" and the Venezuelan Foreign Minister called "child-like".

The United States, Canada, most Latin American nations and many European states have labelled Mr Maduro's second-term election win last May fraudulent.

Mr Maduro retains the loyalty of the armed forces, though Venezuela's top military envoy to the US defected to Mr Guaido's side on Saturday. Both Mr Guaido and Mr Maduro have called for demonstrations this week, raising fears of further violence.

 
 

Separately, Mr Maduro has softened his demand that all US embassy staff withdraw from the country, asserting that he wanted his own diplomats "to defend Venezuelan interests in the US".

Instead, he said the two countries will seek an agreement to replace the embassies with "interest offices" in their respective capitals within 30 days.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, BLOOMBERG

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 28, 2019, with the headline 'Maduro rejects election ultimatum'. Print Edition | Subscribe