European Union nations endorse Venezuela opposition leader over Maduro

France U.K. Recognize Juan Guaido as Venezuela Interim PresidentMore

Several European Union nations on Monday joined the U.S. in backing Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido as the country's interim president - increasing the pressure on beleaguered President Nicolas Maduro to step down.

Organized labour in Canada is voicing its opposition to the federal government's decision to embrace Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido over the regime of Nicolas Maduro - which has been accused of human rights abuses and of winning the last election through vote-rigging.

Maduro, for his part, stood defiant, accusing the United States of preparing a coup in the South American country and rejecting a USA -backed effort to send emergency food and medicine into his country.

Maduro has offered to call parliamentary elections; however, Le Drian insisted that only a presidential election could end the crisis "because it's a presidential regime" in Venezuela. It is time for free and fair elections. Sweden, Denmark, Austria, the Netherlands and Lithuania also lined up behind Guaido, who also has the backing of the United States and many South American nations.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced $53-million in new Canadian funding to support the needs of Venezuelans, including the three million refugees who have been forced to flee the humanitarian crisis in the country.

Guaido says up to 300,000 people are "at risk of death" in Venezuela for want of humanitarian assistance.

Speaking to reporters in Brussels after a meeting of European Union foreign affairs ministers, top EU diplomat Federica Mogherini said that "the EU and its member states never recognised as legitimate the presidential elections that were held past year [in Venezuela]". No mention was made of the current situation: millions of Venezuelans don't have enough to eat, there are massive shortages of basic medicines and the country's inflation rate is slated to rise to 10 million per cent this year.

The words of the European politicians were followed by German Chancellor Angela Merkel confirming her support for Guaido.

"They use sledgehammers instead of boxing gloves", President Maduro said, accusing the U.S. of seeking his removal so that it could take control of Venezuela's vast oil reserves.

But President Maduro shows no sign of budging.

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Earlier French Foreign Minister told French radio that Guaido had the right to call snap elections.

Sanchez added he wanted to spearhead a plan of humanitarian aid for Venezuela in the European Union and United Nations.

Maduro accused Spanish Prime Minister, Pedro Sanchez, of having taken "a bad decision" in recognising Guaido.

"You will leave the presidency stained with blood", Maduro said Sunday evening in an interview with the Spanish television station Sexta. Ten EU countries have yet to announce their position.

On Monday, oil prices rose to their highest level yet this year on European markets on the back of the crisis in Venezuela.

Maduro said Monday he has written to Pope Francis asking for help in fostering dialogue.

"As a country that has an open-arms policy towards Venezuelans, we have received many important figures from the democratic opposition", said Federico Hoyos, Colombia's ambassador to Canada.

"I sent a letter to Pope Francis", Maduro told Italy's SkyTG24 television in an interview broadcast on Monday, with opposition leader Juan Guaido gaining more worldwide support. It aims to facilitate dialogue and is due to hold its first meeting in Uruguay on Thursday.

At the news conference closing today's meeting in Ottawa of the Lima Group of nations, Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland said the idea that opposition to Maduro is part of a coup plot organized by western democracies "could not be further from the truth".

On Monday, Guaido said the European Union needed "to act in unison so that the forces, who are still supporting Maduro feel all the weight of Europe's diplomatic and political pressure".

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