EU endorses Venezuelan opposition leader over Maduro

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Spain, Britain, France and other European Union nations on Monday recognized Venezuela's opposition chief Juan Guaido as interim leader after Maduro rejected their ultimatum a day earlier to call snap presidential elections.

"We are in permanent contact with the governments of Spain, France, the United Kingdom and Germany".

In a video statement posted on Twitter, Sanchez recognised Guaido as interim leader and called for new elections "as soon as possible".

British Prime Minister Theresa May's spokesman, James Slack, said Britain is considering imposing sanctions to help bring about change in Venezuela.

Freeland said Guaido's interim authority is meant to be used exclusively to order free and fair elections to return Venezuela to democracy.

Mr. Marulanda said the recent Russian arrivals are special forces - Spetsnaz - who are being embedded among Venezuela's elite military units to better resist any USA intervention or internal coup against Mr. Maduro.

Sanchez said: "We are working for the return of full democracy in Venezuela: human rights, elections and no more political prisoners". Madrid was among those to endorse Guaido as the "legitimate leader" of Venezuela.

At least three million people have fled Venezuela since 2015.

The United States welcomed the European Union nations' recognition of Guaido and encouraged other countries to follow suit, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement. We did not participate, none of us, at the inauguration of Maduro on January 10.

Maduro has overseen several such military drills since Guaido declared himself president to display he has the backing of the military, and that Venezuela's armed forces are ready to defend the country.

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"I told him that I serve Christ's cause... and in this spirit I asked for his help, in a process of facilitating and strengthening dialogue", said Maduro, who has rejected calls for snap presidential elections.

The Russian presidential spokesman thus responded to a journalist's question about the circumstances under which Russia could recognize Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido as the republic's interim president.

The Government, it said, will "completely revise bilateral relations with those countries from now on".

Opposition leader and self-proclaimed "acting president" Juan Guaido, center, chants slogans as he marches with students during a protest he convened against the government of President Nicolas Maduro, outside Venezuela's Central University (UCV) in Caracas, on January 30, 2019. In the past week, the leader has attended numerous exercises and spoken to soldiers, likely because of the major role the military will play in determining his future.

Meanwhile, in Canada, foreign ministers from Western hemisphere nations belonging to the Lima Group, which includes 13 countries that took the lead in recognizing Guaido as Venezuela's rightful leader, gathered in Ottawa to discuss additional steps to pressure Maduro.

"Handing out ultimatums, sanctions, freezing Venezuelan goods ..."

He added: "No, worldwide politics can't be based on ultimatums".

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo welcomed the European states' recognition of Guaido, and urged others to follow suit. "They are willing to collaborate and I am sure that this will be one of the most important events, topics, elements in order to accomplish a way out in Venezuela", said Viera-Blanco, who has become the de-facto ambassador to Canada of Venezuela's interim government - whose authority Maduro rejects.

"It marks this fight not as a fight of Trump versus Maduro or Latin America versus Maduro but a fight that is of the world against Maduro", said Julio Borges, an exiled opposition politician who has been key in building Guaido's strategy.