Venezuela’s Maduro rejects EU ultimatum on fresh elections

The embattled president dubs opposition leader’s declaration unconstitutional, but says he is open to talks with the US.

Venezuela''s President Nicolas Maduro
Maduro told CNN that he was open to dialogue with President Donald Trump [Manaure Quintero/Reuters]

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has rejected calls by European nations to hold early elections, calling the opposition leader’s self-declaration as president constitutionally null.

“Nobody can give us an ultimatum,” Maduro said in an interview with broadcaster CNN Turk aired on Sunday, a day after France, Germany and Spain threatened to recognise opposition leader Juan Guaido as president if elections were not announced within eight days.

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini also issued a statement that said the bloc as a whole could recognise Guaido if steps towards new elections were not taken “over the next days”.

Maduro’s foreign minister, Jorge Arreaza, had already rejected the deadline during an emergency UN Security Council meeting on Saturday.

“Venezuela will not allow anyone to impose on us any decision or order,” Arreaza said, adding that Caracas has “excellent friends” it can call on for support to defend itself.

Washington, which was among the first to recognise Guaido as leader of the oil-rich country, urged the world on Saturday to “pick a side” on Venezuela and financially disconnect from Maduro’s government.

“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,” US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told the UNSC on Saturday.

Guaido stunned Venezuelans on Wednesday by declaring himself interim president before cheering supporters in the Venezuelan capital, buoyed by massive anti-government protests.

An industrial engineer by training, Guaido was elected to the Nation Assembly in 2015.

The 35-year-old also served as the head of the comptroller commission that investigations allegations of government corruption.

Meanwhile, on Saturday, Maduro seemed to go back on his decision to expel US diplomatic staff from Venezuela.

The embattled leader said on Wednesday that Caracas would break off diplomatic relations with the US and gave it a 72-hour deadline to pull out its diplomats from the country.

Maduro told CNN that he was open to dialogue with President Donald Trump, which he said was unlikely but not entirely impossible. 

Maduro has by and large retained the loyalty of the country’s armed forces, except for the defection of a military attache to Washington who pledged allegiance to Guaido.

Colonel Jose Luis Silva declared himself a supporter of Guaido, saying, “He is the only legitimate president.”

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies