At UN, Pompeo asks countries to 'pick a side' on Venezuela

Roman Schwartz
January 27, 2019

While many countries have already recognized Venezuela National Assembly leader Juan Guaido as the country's legitimate president, Europe has been holding out.

"Now it is time for every other nation to pick a side ... Either you stand with the forces of freedom, or you're in league with Maduro and his mayhem", Pompeo told the council. "We are also part of the people, and we've had enough of supporting a government that has betrayed the most basic principles and sold itself to other countries", he added in the interview.

Mr Guaido proclaimed himself interim president last week but Mr Maduro, who has led the oil-rich nation since 2013 and has the support of the armed forces, has refused to stand down.

Maduro was sworn in for a second term earlier this month following last year's elections, which were marred by an opposition boycott and allegations of vote-rigging.

"As the Venezuelan defense attache in the United States, I do not recognize Mr. Nicolas Maduro as president of Venezuela", Silva told the Spanish-language, Miami-based newspaper El Nuevo Herald.

Under Maduro, Venezuela has sunk into turmoil with food shortages and daily protests amid an economic and political crisis that has sparked mass emigration and inflation that is seen rising to 10 million percent this year.

The leaders of two of those council nations - France and Britain - joined Spain and Germany to turn up the pressure on Maduro Saturday, saying they would follow the USA and others in recognizing Guaido unless Venezuela calls new presidential elections within eight days. Venezuela's Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza told the Security Council.

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Maduro has a Saturday afternoon deadline for U.S. diplomats to leave his country, but the U.S. State Department has left behind essential diplomats and said Maduro's orders as a "former president" have no authority.

The United States barely survived the vote to go ahead with the meeting, receiving the minimum nine "yes" votes from the council's six Western nations along with Kuwait, Peru and the Dominican Republic. China, South Africa and Equatorial Guinea joined Russian Federation in voting "no" while Indonesia and Ivory Coast abstained.

"We strongly condemn those who are pushing the Venezuelan society to the edge of a bloodbath".

Pompeo was accompanied to NY by Elliott Abrams, who was named a day earlier as the US special representative for Venezuela.

None of the other veto-wielding powers on the Security Council have formally backed Guaido.

"China maintains that all countries should abide by the purposes and principles of the UN Charter, especially the norms governing worldwide relations and the principles of global law such as no interference in each other's internal affairs, mutual respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity and refrain from threatening to use force", Ma said. "We hope the country that accuses others can do likewise itself", said China's U.N. Ambassador Ma Zhaoxu, referring to the United States. Washington has signaled it was ready to step up economic measures to try to drive Maduro from power, but on Saturday Pompeo declined to elaborate on any such plans.

Guaido's move is the most direct challenge to Maduro's rule despite years of protests at home and worldwide efforts to isolate the regime amid a growing humanitarian crisis fueled by falling oil prices and government mismanagement.

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