Venezuela crisis: Russia, key allies vow to stand by Maduro

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Moscow, Jan 24 (IANS) Key allies of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro led by Russia and China, on Thursday warned Washington not to stage an “external intervention” in support of opposition leader Juan Guaido’s attempt to lead the country, a day after US President Donald Trump recognized him as the South American nation’s legitimate President.

Trump’s Wednesday move recognizing Guaido as the new head of state forced Venezuela’s incumbent leader Maduro to cut “remaining” political and diplomatic ties with Washington.

Maduro also asked American diplomats in Venezuela to leave within 72 hours. “The imperial government of the US is leading a coup attempt against us in order to install a puppet presidency that they can control in Venezuela,” he added.

The US and other regional countries including Argentina, Canada, Brazil, Colombia, Panama, Peru, Ecuador, Costa Rica, Guatemala and Paraguay expressed support for Guaido, while Russia, China, Mexico, Bolivia, Cuba, Nicaragua, Turkey, support Maduro, the BBC reported.

French President Emmanuel Macron stopped short of recognition, calling for democratic elections.

Russia, an important provider of financial aid to the Venezuelan government, issued a strong declaration of support for Maduro’s government on Thursday, saying that the US military intervention in Venezuela would be “catastrophic”.

It said that the recognition of Guaido by Washington and some regional countries was aimed at aggravating the split in the Venezuelan society and escalating the conflict.

“We warn against that,” said Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov in remarks published by a ministry publication.

“We believe it would be a catastrophic scenario to shake the foundation of the development model we have been observing in the region of Latin America.”

China also expressed its support for the Venezuelan government and criticized “the US interference in its domestic affairs”, Xinhua news agency reported.

“China supports the Venezuelan government’s efforts to uphold its sovereignty, independence and stability,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said.

Venezuela has been one of Beijing’s closest allies in Latin America and the largest recipient of Chinese financing, taking as much as 38 billion pounds in loans by 2017.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan phoned Maduro and offered his support, his spokesman said. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu issued a warning about Guaido’s declaration.

UN Secretary General António Guterres said talks in Venezuela were needed to avoid the political crisis spiralling out of control. European Council President Donald Tusk expressed support and called on other European countries to join him.

Trump had on Wednesday said that the US would continue to use economic and diplomatic power to press for “the restoration of Venezuelan democracy”.

In a statement, the US President described Maduro’s leadership as “illegitimate”, adding: “The people of Venezuela have courageously spoken out against Maduro and his regime and demanded freedom and the rule of law.”

It warned Maduro tougher sanctions could be imposed.

–IANS

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