February 1, 2019
By Robin Emmott
BRUSSELS (Reuters) – European Union governments will move to recognize Juan Guaido as Venezuela’s interim president from next week, but using cautious language for fear of setting a precedent for political crises, two EU diplomats said on Friday.
Nervous that Guaido’s decision to declare himself president could set an example for other opposition leaders around the world, EU foreign ministers agreed in Bucharest this week to back him only until a new election could be held.
Instead of the bloc as a whole making a joint declaration, each of the 28 governments will come forward with their own position on whether to back Venezuela’s National Assembly head.
Britain, France, Germany and Spain are expected to announce their direct recognition of Guaido from Monday, assuming an eight-day deadline they set last Saturday for an election is not met, diplomats said. Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has dismissed the call as an unacceptable ultimatum.
The majority of other, smaller EU countries will throw their support behind Guaido but have agreed to avoid explicitly using the words “recognition” and “recognize”.
According to two documents prepared for EU diplomats and seen by Reuters, they will “acknowledge support” for Guaido in his role as interim president.
“A lot of countries will want to stress the interim nature of this de-facto recognition,” one EU diplomat said.
Despite pressure from the European Parliament, which formally recognized the 35-year-old Venezuelan congress head in a vote on Thursday, and following recognition from the United States, Canada and several Latin American nations, which argue Maduro stole his second-term election, the EU has so far avoided a clear position on Guaido.
The diplomats said EU governments had felt more comfortable in shifting towards support by basing their position on Venezuela’s constitution, which states that the head of congress can take over if the president usurps power, is absent or incapacitated.
As Venezuela has sunk into economic and political crisis that has brought mass emigration and hyperinflation, the EU imposed an arms embargo and sanctions on officials to decry what it views as rights violations and the rupture of democracy.
The bloc has agreed to lead an international crisis group of 10 to 12 countries and is expected to hold its first meeting next week in Montevideo, the diplomats said.
According to an EU document agreed by foreign ministers on Thursday, the so-called International Contact Group on Venezuela will seek new elections in Venezuela within 90 days through “regular, discreet and structured contacts.”
EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said on Thursday governments including Britain, France, Germany, Spain and Italy would take part in a so-called international contact group, along with Bolivia, Ecuador and other countries.
(Reporting by Robin Emmott; Editing by Alissa de Carbonnel)