SPAIN’S Prime Minister recognised Venezuela’s National Assembly leader as the country’s interim president after a deadline to call elections in the Latin American country passed today (Monday).
Pedro Sanchez said Madrid now regarded opposition leader Juan Guaido as the country’s legitimate leader. Britain, France, Germany and other EU countries have also recognised Guaido.
Guaido declared himself president on Wednesday January 23 under Venezuela’s constitution in response to a deepening economic crisis and political crackdowns under President Nicolas Maduro.
Sanchez said the condition of Spain supporting Guaido was that free and fair elections should be held as soon as possible.
“It is ultimately the people of Venezuela who have to decide their future, Venezuela must have its own destiny,” Sanchez said.
El Gobierno de #España impulsará el Grupo de Contacto Internacional creado por la UE para acompañar a #Venezuela en la convocatoria de elecciones libres y democráticas.
Dedicaremos todo nuestro esfuerzo para alcanzar la paz, la libertad y la concordia del pueblo venezolano. pic.twitter.com/QzUj9uIl3Q
— Pedro Sánchez (@sanchezcastejon) February 4, 2019
Guaido said he was grateful to Sanchez and Spain for recognising him as interim president.
“We thank Pedro Sanchez and the entire Spanish government for supporting us on our path of struggle for democracy,” Guaido said.
Agradecemos al Presidente Pedro Sánchez y a todo el Gobierno español por su reconocimiento y su apoyo a nuestra ruta de lucha por la democracia.
— Juan Guaidó (@jguaido) February 4, 2019
Maduro said Monday was the day that Venezuela had to decide whether to defend its independence or let itself fall to imperialism.
El futuro de la Patria se decide hoy, o dejamos que nos conviertan en una estrella de la bandera imperial, o defendemos con dignidad nuestro Tricolor Nacional con sus 8 estrellas. Protejamos a Venezuela con la valentía, fuerza y lealtad que heredamos del Gran Mariscal Sucre. pic.twitter.com/oRgKz4fTmF
— Nicolás Maduro (@NicolasMaduro) February 3, 2019
The president and his supporters have accused the US and others of attempting to engineer a coup in the country. The leftist Podemos party leader Pablo Iglesias said US president Donald Trump and his allies were more interested in Venezuelan oil than in human rights.
A Trump y a sus aliados no les interesa la democracia y los derechos humanos en Venezuela, les interesa su petróleo. España y Europa deben defender la legalidad internacional, el diálogo y la mediación pacífica, no un golpe de Estado
— Pablo Iglesias (@Pablo_Iglesias_) January 23, 2019
The recognition comes as Sanchez branded Maduro a “tyrant” and not a socialist as his regime in Caracas describes itself as.
It also comes as three Spanish journalists who were arrested in Caracas were freed last Friday following an outcry from Madrid.
Venezuela has faced a worsening economic situation in the last 10 years. Falling oil prices and international sanctions have coincided with some 3.3 million people leaving since 2015 and a crackdown on opposition groups including through arrests and bans.