BRUSSELS (Halbeeg News)-European countries have given Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro eight days an ultimatum to hold nationwide elections, failure to which nations would recognise opposition leader Juan Guaido.
Guaido, the 35-year-old head of the National Assembly, proclaimed himself acting president of Venezuela during massive street rallies this week.
Spain, France, Germany and Britain have separately voiced that Maduro should lead the country to a peaceful power transition.
Spain Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez whose country colonised Venezuela said his country is ready to support Maduru’s opposition.
“If within eight days there are no fair, free and transparent elections called in Venezuela, Spain will recognise Juan Guaido as Venezuelan president,” Pedro said.
French President Emmanuel Macron echoed the Spanish ultimatum.
“Unless elections are announced within eight days, we will be ready to recognise @jguaido as ‘President in charge’ of Venezuela in order to trigger a political process,” Macron said on his Twitter feed.
Some 200,000 of its nationals live Venezuela.
EU diplomatic chief Federica Mogherini also called for fresh elections.
“In the absence of an announcement on the organisation of fresh elections with the necessary guarantees over the next days, the EU will take further actions, including on the issue of recognition of the country’s leadership,” Mogherini said in a statement.
A spokesperson of the German government issued a similar statement.
British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said that Guaido is “the right person to take Venezuela forward”.
“Time for a new start for the suffering ppl (people) of Venezuela,” Hunt said in a statement later on Saturday.
Venezuela’s foreign minister rejected the European ultimatum, insisting that Maduro remained the legitimate president.
“Nobody is going to give us deadlines or tell us if there are elections or not,” Jorge Arreaza told a special session of the United Nations Security Council.
“How is it that you can issue an ultimatum to a sovereign government?” he said.
The ultimatum comes as international pressure mounts on the Maduro regime to agree on a new vote, with the United States, Canada and major South American players already recognising Guaido, who proclaimed himself acting president of Venezuela during massive street rallies this week.
In fact, Greece’s ruling party Syriza has publicly backed Maduro, with party secretary Panos Skourletis voicing “full support and solidarity” to what to he called “the legal president.”
President Donald Trump’s administration has spearheaded the international pressure on Maduro, who accuses Washington of being behind an attempted “coup,” by declaring his regime “illegitimate.”
Left-leaning governments in the region, including Cuba and Bolivia, have thrown their weight behind Maduro. Mexico under its new president, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, has so far refused to take sides.
Growing discontent in Venezuela, fuelled by hyperinflation, power cuts and food and medicine shortages, has led to a political crisis.
Last week, the Opposition leader Juan Guaidó has declared himself interim president following large protests, galvanising opponents of current socialist President Nicolás Maduro.
Some 26 people were reportedly killed in demonstrations last week and the UN has warned that the situation could spiral out of control.
More than three million Venezuelans have fled their country over recent years, blaming hunger, lack of medical care, rising unemployment and violent crime.