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Venezuela: Europe tells Maduro to hold vote, Guaido orders protests



European countries gave embattled Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro a deadline of this coming Saturday to call new elections or, in their eyes, lose his legitimacy.

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

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

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

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez imposed an eight-day deadline on Maduro to call fresh elections. Britain, Germany, and France echoed his call.

Britain, Germany, and France echoed Sanchez’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, February 2, to call new elections, or else the EU countries will officially recognize 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.

Read more: Pompeo urged the United Nations to support Venezuela’s ouster of Maduro to fix ‘illegitimate mafia state’

Guaidó waves to supporters at a rally in eastern Caracas on January 25. He declared himself Venezuela’s interim president last week.

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

Maduro’s allies around the world — including Venezuelan military leaders, 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 recognized him as interim president.

Read more: Inside the secret diplomacy that led the US and a coalition of Latin American governments to quickly recognize Juan Guaidó as Venezuela’s interim president

Maduro, pictured here in Caracas in May 2018, has refused to budge from his position despite tens of thousands of people telling him to step down.
REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins

Meanwhile, Guaidó on Sunday called on supporters to continue protesting Maduro this coming 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 Maduro’s officials from withdrawing $1.2 billion worth of gold from their vaults, Bloomberg reported.

The gold is part of $8 billion in foreign reserves held by the Venezuelan central bank. Maduro has been trying to access it since at least last December.

Inside the Bank of England’s gold bullion vault. The Bank of England reportedly blocked Maduro’s officials from withdrawing $1.2 billion worth of gold out of the Bank of England amid the political chaos.

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 neighboring Colombia, with hundreds of thousands more in Peru, Ecuador, Argentina, Chile, and Brazil.

Although the EU said it supported fresh elections, not all member states are agreed on their stance on the South American country. Greece’s ruling left-wing Syriza party pledged “full support and solidarity” for Maduro.

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