France, U.K. Recognize Juan Guaido as Venezuela Interim President

The U.K., Spain, France and Austria recognized Venezuelan National Assembly leader Juan Guaido as the country’s interim president on Monday, joining an international push led by the U.S. censuring Nicolas Maduro and calling for new elections.

Germany joined France, Spain and the U.K. on Jan. 26, saying they would recognize Guaido as Venezuela’s leader in the event Maduro refused to call elections within eight days. The European Union failed to unify jointly behind a drive to support Guaido within this specific timeframe when countries including Italy vetoed a push to make that the position of the whole bloc.

The political crisis in oil-rich Venezuela has provoked a worldwide split, with a U.S.-led group of countries that have already recognized Guaido as interim president pitted against nations such as Russia and China that support Maduro.

“Nicolas Maduro has not called Presidential elections within 8 day limit we have set,” U.K. Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said in a post on Twitter. French President Emmanuel Macron said in a tweet that “Venezuelans have the right to express themselves freely and democratically.” “For this reason, we now consider the President @jguaido as the lawful interim President in accordance with the Venezuelan Constitution,” Austrian chancellor Sebastian Kurz tweeted.

Last week, the EU’s top diplomat sounded a warning about the outlook for Venezuela amid the political standoff in the country. “I tend to be an optimist; in this case, I do not have particularly positive expectations,” EU foreign-policy chief Federica Mogherini told reporters on Friday in Bucharest, as she announced the bloc could consider new sanctions against Maduro.

A joint statement firming EU’s stance on Venezuela was being debated among national government envoys and may be issued later on Monday.

— With assistance by Nikos Chrysoloras

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