EU ramps up pressure on Greece, Italy over Venezuela crisis

COMPILED FROM WIRE SERVICES
ISTANBUL
Published 08.02.2019 00:03

A top European Parliament lawmaker slammed Greece's stance on Venezuela's political crisis, saying Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras is "blocking initiatives on a European level" that would support the U.S.-led campaign against the democratically elected President Nicolas Maduro.

Joining Italy in breaking the coordinated action of European Union nations and the U.S., Greece's governing Syriza party expressed full support for Maduro, and declined to recognize opposition leader Juan Guaido as Venezuela's legitimate head of state.

Manfred Weber, who heads the European Parliament's biggest group, said it was "a tragedy to see how the Greek government is now behaving on [a] European level," and accused it of being closer "with [Russian President Vladimir] Putin and Maduro and not so much with the free world of democratic countries." In a move to create chaos over Venezuela's internal politics, About 20 European Union nations including Britain, Germany, France and Spain have aligned with the U.S. in recognizing Guaido's leadership and pressuring socialist President Nicolas Maduro to call a new election. Italy on Monday blocked a joint EU position to recognize Guaido as interim president.

In an interview conducted last week at a military base, Maduro appealed to Europe not to be "dragged along by the craziness" of President Donald Trump in raising the possibility of a foreign intervention.

Maduro, last week, warned that leaders in Washington were motivated by the desire "to get their hands on" Venezuela's massive oil reserves, "as they did in Iraq and Libya." Venezuela has been rocked by protests since Jan. 10 when President Nicolas Maduro was sworn in for a second term following a vote boycott by the opposition. Tensions climbed on Jan. 23 when Guaido declared himself interim president, but Maduro has so far refused calls to step down.

Guaido held talks with EU representatives in Caracas earlier Wednesday "to consolidate their support for the democratic transition" adding that he would send a delegation to holdout state Italy to present his "action plan to relaunch democracy."

Maduro disclosed Monday that he sent Pope Francis a letter seeking help in mediating the country's crisis. The pope told journalists Tuesday that this would require agreement from both the government and the opposition. Guaido backed the idea on Wednesday, saying the Argentine pope could bring his "great moral authority" to bear on Maduro to convince him to leave power.

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