The UK, France, Germany, Spain and other European countries have officially recognised opposition leader Juan Guaidó, Mr. Nicolás Maduro’s rival, as Venezuela’s interim president. This comes after Mr. Maduro set a defiantly rebuffed a deadline they set for Sunday (3 February) to call fresh elections. Mr Guaidó declared himself interim leader last month and won US backing while Russia, Mr. Maduro’s chief backer, accused EU countries of meddling in Venezuela’s affairs.
In a related development, the EU leaders decided to establish an international contact group to mediate the crisis in Venezuela but it made clear already earlier that it would leave up to its member states to decide regarding the recognition of Juan Guaido as President. The EU will now follow the European Parliament’s position on the recognition by default, saying that “the authority to do so is not in the European Union, it is in the member states” – chief of EU diplomacy Federica Mogherini said after the meeting of foreign ministers. Previously, Ms. Mogherini warned that the bloc would take further actions if elections were not called within eight days.
The international contact group will seek to “build trust and create the necessary conditions” for free and fair elections in Venezuela. Federica Mogherini emphasized that the objective was not to open a formal dialogue with the actors concerned “but to support a political dynamic” that the group could support. The international group will try to first get an idea of the situation and then identify the expectation of the stakeholders and spearhead the political transition.
The leading EU countries will be involved in the discussions, led by Spain, which is the best placed to be a European actor in Latin America. The Spanish leadership welcomed the establishment of the international contact group but regretted that the decision had not been made sooner. “We would have been in a much better position to face a situation that we knew it could take place any moment from 10 January,” the Spanish Foreign Affairs minister Joseph Borrell explained.