Spain recognizes Juan Guaidó as interim president of Venezuela

Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez also announces a humanitarian aid program for the crisis-stricken Latin American country

Spain's Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez delivers an official statement on the government's position on the political crisis in Venezuela, in Madrid, Spain.
Spain's Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez delivers an official statement on the government's position on the political crisis in Venezuela, in Madrid, Spain.JAVIER BARBANCHO (REUTERS)

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez held a news conference on Monday at 10am to announce that “Spain officially recognizes Juan Guaidó, the leader of the National Assembly, as the interim president of Venezuela.”

Sánchez also announced that Spain will foster a humanitarian aid plan for Venezuela within the European Union and the United Nations, and asked Guaidó to call elections in the shortest possible delay.

It is the people of Venezuela who must decide their future

Spanish PM Pedro Sánchez

“In the coming hours I will contact European and Latin American governments,” said Sánchez, adding that Guaidó must now “call free elections as soon as possible” because “it is the people of Venezuela who must decide their future, and the international community must respect and verify the outcome.”

In a tweet after the six-minute press conference, Sánchez wrote: “I recognize @jguaido as interim president of Venezuela with a clear horizon: calling free, democratic presidential elections with guarantees and no exclusions. I will not take a step back. For freedom, democracy and concord in #Venezuela.”

Shortly later, Nicolás Maduro of Venezuela called Sánchez “a coward” and accused him of being “a puppet” at the service of the United States and Donald Trump. And Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza accused CNN, BBC and the Spanish state broadcaster TVE of using “psychological warfare” in their coverage of the situation. Venezuelan dissidents in Spain said they expect the National Assembly to appoint a new ambassador this week to ensure that Venezuela will “rejoin the democratic world.”

Britain and Austria

Just minutes after Sánchez’s news conference, other countries including Britain and Austria also officially recognized Guaidó. At 10.09am, Britain’s foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt tweeted that “Nicolas Maduro has not called Presidential elections within 8 day limit we have set. So UK alongside European allies now recognises @jguaido as interim constitutional president until credible elections can be held. Let’s hope this takes us closer to ending humanitarian crisis.”

And in a tweet posted in Spanish at 10.13am, Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said that “the Maduro regime has refused to date to accept free and fair presidential elections. For this reason, from now on we consider President @jguaido as the legitimate interim president in compliance with the Venezuelan Constitution.”

France, Germany, Sweden, Denmark and Latvia also recognized Guaidó on Monday.

EU position

Attempts by the EU to reach a common position in order to recognize Guaidó, at least implicitly, have run into opposition from a group of countries led by Italy. The differing viewpoints among EU members have to do with the wording and the deadlines to recognize the National Assembly leader as the interim president of Venezuela until new elections are called.

Pedro Sánchez speaking at Davos in January.
Pedro Sánchez speaking at Davos in January.AFP

Monday was the deadline that Spain, Germany, France and Britain had given Nicolás Maduro to announce new elections in the crisis-ridden country.

But during a television interview with Spanish network La Sexta, Maduro said he was not contemplating either stepping down or calling new presidential elections: “I don’t take ultimatums from anybody. International politics cannot be based on ultimatums. Why should the EU order a country around?”

The joint EU position was discussed late last week by foreign ministers from the 28 member states gathered at an informal meeting in Bucharest, Romania. While no common statement on Guaidó emerged at that gathering, the EU did agree to create an international contact group to promote new elections in Venezuela.

Spain’s position

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez had been facing internal and external pressure to recognize Guaidó as the legitimate president ever since the latter took a public oath on January 23, triggering a wave of support from countries in the Americas.

The US administration contacted the Spanish government right before Guaidó declared himself the new leader, and afterwards, it pressured for Spain and the rest of the European Union to recognize Guaidó and break all dialogue with President Nicolás Maduro.

For days, Sánchez remained silent while other leaders around him, including Emmanuel Macron of France, expressed support for Guaidó. Then, at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, the Spanish PM phoned Guaidó and made the first public statements suggesting support for him. A few days later he described Nicolás Maduro as a “tyrant.”

English version by Susana Urra.

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