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Pompeo Calls On World To Stand With Venezuela's 'Forces Of Freedom'

Updated

Venezuelan National Assembly head Juan Guaido (left) says President Nicolas Maduro must resign.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has called on all United Nations members to recognize Juan Guaido as Venezuela's interim president.

"Now it is time for every other nation to pick a side. No more delays, no more games. Either you stand with the forces of freedom, or you're in league with Maduro and his mayhem," Pompeo said at a January 26 special session of the UN Security Council, referring to Venezuelan President Nicholas Maduro, who Washington is urging to step down.

Pompeo called Maduro's government an "illegitimate mafia state" and said its "socialist experiment caused the economy to collapse," citing deep poverty and the collapse of services such as hospitals.

Pompeo also said he hoped countries who have expressed support for Venezuelan opposition leader Guaido also disconnect their financial system from Maduro's government.

"We hope, too, that each of those nations will ensure that they disconnect their financial systems from the Maduro regime and allow assets that belong to the Venezuelan people to go to the rightful governors of that state," Pompeo told reporters on the sidelines of the UN meeting on Venezuela.

Maduro has broken off diplomatic relations with Washington and ordered U.S. diplomatic staff to leave by January 27.

Venezuela’s government later stepped back from the order, saying the diplomats would be allowed to stay while the matter is being negotiated.

Meanwhile, Venezuela's defense attache to the United States broke with his government on January 26, saying he no longer recognized Maduro as president and supported Guaido as interim leader.

Russia's UN ambassador, Vasily Nebenzya, told the Security Council on January 26 that Venezuela did not pose a threat to international peace and security and should not be on its agenda.

"If anything does represent a threat to peace, it is the shameless and aggressive actions of the United States and their allies in the ouster of the legitimate elected present of Venezuela," Nebenzya said.

He accused the United States of attempting "to engineer a coup d'etat" in Venezuela while demanding to know whether the Trump administration "is ready to use military force" against Maduro's government.

Ahead of the meeting, Germany, France, and Spain said they would recognize opposition leader Guaido as interim president if no elections were held within eight days.

Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza dismissed the deadline in his comments at the Security Council meeting.

"Europe is giving us eight days? Where do you get that you have the power to establish a deadline or an ultimatum to a sovereign people," Arreaza told the Security Council. "It's almost childlike."

"Venezuela will not allow anyone to impose on us any decision or order," he said.

Arreaza said Maduro's government still hoped to establish communication and dialogue with U.S. President Donald Trump's administration. "That offer stands," he told the council.

Maduro has refused to step down after disputed elections last year, despite growing pressure from the opposition in Venezuela and internationally.

"We are not seeking to install or remove governments. We want democracy and free elections in Venezuela," Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said in Madrid.

In what appears to be a coordinated message from European Union countries, French President Manuel Macron sent a tweet echoing Sanchez's comments at almost the same time.

"The Venezuelan people must be able to freely decide their own future," Macron wrote.

Meanwhile, German government spokeswoman Martina Fietz said, "Unless elections are announced in the next eight days, we are ready to recognize Juan Guaido as interim president."

EU officials have stopped short of recognizing Guaido as interim president, instead calling for democratic elections.

The United States, Canada, and major regional players, including Brazil, Colombia, and Argentina, have already thrown their support behind the opposition.

Other countries -- including Russia, Iran, Turkey, Cuba, Bolivia, and Nicaragua -- have backed Maduro.

Russia has accused Washington of backing a coup attempt.

In a press conferences on January 25, Guaido urged his sympathizers to stage another mass protest next week and told them that if he was arrested they should "stay the course" and peacefully protest, while Maduro called for dialogue.

Maduro won a second term in May elections widely seen as undemocratic and was sworn in on January 10 amid mounting international pressure on him to step down.

Guaido has described the situation in Venezuela as a "humanitarian emergency."

Despite possessing the largest oil reserves in the world, Venezuela has been in economic and political crisis for years.

With reporting by Reuters, AFP, AP, and dpa
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