Venezuela's self-proclaimed interim president thanks Netanyahu for recognition

28 January, 2019, 10:44 | Author: Mary Valdez
  • Venezuela Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza at the UN Saturday holds up printouts of tweets he says show the US is instigating Juan Guaidó’s opposition

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) disputed on Sunday that the United States would participate in a coup to oust Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, saying he doesn't know of any US leaders who are calling for one. Maduro was re-elected in May in a race that was tainted by widespread allegations of fraud.

"No, my commander-in-chief", they shouted in unison, and Mr Maduro responded: "We're ready to defend our homeland - under any circumstance".

However, Mexico - once a vocal member of the Lima Group regional bloc created to pressure Maduro to enact democratic reforms - struck a discordant note under new leftist President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, saying it would not take sides and branding support for Guaido a violation of sovereignty. The White House refused to obey the order and everyone was holding their breath, waiting to see what would happen next. "We woke up today with nothing less than the full support of the European community", Guaido said at a small political event in a square in the capital Caracas.

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

Maduro started a second term on January 10 following a widely boycotted election previous year that many foreign governments described as a sham.

"This defense attache does not recognize Nicolas Maduro as president, considering him a usurper, and recognizes Juan Guaido as the legitimate interim president", Colonel Jose Luis Silva said.

President Donald Trump and several foreign leaders quickly recognised Guaido as Venezuela's legitimate leader, prompting Maduro to cut ties with the USA and order its diplomats from Caracas within 72 hours.

Although he professed himself "open to dialogue", he acknowledged it was unlikely.

The Venezuela armed forces are considered the backbone of the government, and on Thursday senior military officers reaffirmed support for Maduro, claiming that there was an effective "coup" under way.

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Critics accused the government of vote buying. "I sent many messages to Donald Trump ", he said . Russia , meanwhile, called for the United States and Europe to cease interfering in Venezuela.

Maduro has accused Guaido of taking part in a coup ordered by Trump's hard-line policy advisers, who include Cold War veterans John Bolton and Elliott Abrams.

But he saved his sharpest attack for Cuba, saying no country has done more to sustain "the nightmarish condition of the Venezuelan people".

Vice president Mike Pompeo urged all nations to end Venezuela's "nightmare" and support Mr Guaidó in a United Nations debate.

While Venezuela once had one of the largest Jewish communities in the region, numbering some 25,000 in 1999, only about 6,000 Jews are believed to remain in the country, with numerous rest having fled to Israel, Canada, the United States and elsewhere.

Maduro's reelection previous year was contested by the opposition and rejected by the US, EU and United Nations as a sham - but he has until now retained the loyalty of the powerful military.

As the deadline expired, Maduro said he had begun negotiations to set up within 30 days an Interests Section in Caracas to maintain a minimum level of diplomatic contact, similar to the arrangement the U.S. had with Cuba until their 2015 rapprochement.

"The United States always retains the right - always, anywhere in the world in any instance - to protect its national security", he said.

At the meeting, critics and supporters of Maduro's government faced off in a reflection of the world's deep divisions over Venezuela, which is mired in political confrontation as well as an economic collapse that has caused millions to flee the country.

Venezuela abandoned its decision to sever diplomatic ties with the U.S., stating that each country agreed to keep a so-called interest section open in their respective capitals.

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