Juan Guaidó declares himself the country’s ‘acting president’. Photograph: Federico Parra/AFP/Getty Images
Attempts to force Venezuela’s president from power are illegal, says Russian senator
Venezuela’s opposition leader, Juan Guaidó, has declared himself interim president and has won the backing of the US, the EU and most of the regional bloc called the Lima Group – but a number of key allies remained steadfast in support of president Nicolás Maduro.
Russia, a major Venezuelan ally, considers attempts to force Maduro from power to be illegal, Vyacheslav Volodin, the speaker of Russia’s lower house of parliament, was quoted as saying on Thursday by the Interfax news agency.
Other MPs criticised US actions against Maduro. “The US is trying to carry out an operation to organise the next ‘colour revolution’ in Venezuela,” said Andrei Klimov, deputy chairman of the foreign affairs committee of the upper house of parliament, using a term for the popular uprisings that unseated leaders in Georgia, Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan.
Another committee member, Vladimir Dzhabrailov, said: “I do not think that we can recognise this – it is, in essence, a coup.”
Russia’s largest oil company, Rosneft, is heavily invested in the South American nation’s oil fields, which produce declining amounts of crude each month.
Turkey’s foreign minister issued a warning about Guaidó’s declaration. “There is an elected president and another person declares himself president, and some countries recognise this. This may cause chaos,” Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu told the A Haber news channel. “We are against the isolation of countries. I hope the situation will be solved peacefully.”
China has not yet publicly declared its support for Maduro but Venezuela has been one of Beijing’s closest allies in Latin America, and the largest recipient of Chinese financing, as much as £38bn in loans by 2017. China is Venezuela’s largest creditor, prompting concerns that as Venezuela’s economy spirals, state assets could fall into Chinese hands, as was the case with Sri Lanka’s Hambantota port.
Mexico, part of the 14-member Lima Group, departed from the regional bloc’s call for democratic transition and said it would stick to its “constitutional principles of non-intervention”.
It joined with Uruguay – the only other prominent Latin American country still recognising Maduro – in calling for additional talks between the government and opposition to find a “peaceful solution”. Previous talks brokered by the Vatican on the Venezuelan situation broke down.
Uruguay’s foreign ministry said in a statement on Wednesday that the two countries were proposing a “new process of inclusive and credible negotiations with full respect for the rule of law and human rights” to resolve the dispute peacefully.
Cuba expressed its support, with the state newspaper Granma saying that by recognising Guaido as interim president, Trump “is directing a coup d’état”. Cuba is hugely dependent on Venezuelan petroleum paid for with doctors.
The UN chief António Guterres on Thursday said talks in Venezuela were needed to avoid the political crisis spiralling out of control.
“What we hope is that dialogue can be possible, and that we avoid an escalation that would lead to the kind of conflict that would be a disaster for the people of Venezuela and for the region,” he said at the World Economic Forum in Davos.
“Sovereign governments have the possibility to decide whatever they want,” the UN secretary-general said on a Facebook Live broadcast from Davos. “What we are worried [about] with the situation in Venezuela is the suffering of the people of Venezuela.”
Maduro has presided over a deepening economic crisis that has left millions in poverty as the oil-rich country faces shortages of basic necessities such as food and medicine.
Some 2.3 million people have fled the country since 2015, according to the UN, and the International Monetary Fund says inflation will hit a 10 million percent this year.