Latin American countries call for Venezuelan military to back opposition leader Juan Guaido

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A group of Latin American countries and Canada has called on Venezuela’s military to back opposition leader and self-declared interim president Juan Guaido.

He has accused the armed forces, controlled by President Nicolas Maduro, of planning to divert international humanitarian aid earmarked for the crisis-torn country.

The Lima Group, a multilateral body with 14 members, has expressed its “support for a process of peaceful transition through political and diplomatic means without the use of force”.

The countries also urged the military “not to impede the entry and transit of humanitarian assistance to Venezuelans”.

Members released a joint statement after a meeting in Ottawa, Canada, where protesters briefly disrupted a closing press conference.

Mr Guaido, who addressed the meeting in a video message, said he looked forward to having “free and fair elections as soon as possible in order to restore democracy to Venezuela”.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and European Union deputy diplomatic chief Helga Schmid also participated in the talks by video conference.

The Lima Group welcomed Mr Guaido’s “legitimate government of Venezeula” and vowed to “recognise and work with” his representatives in their respective countries.

The body’s 17-point declaration states that the governments of Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, Panama and Peru support Mr Guaido as interim president.

Three members – Guyana, Mexico and St Lucia – did not back the declaration.

Canada’s foreign minister Chrystia Freeland said 34 countries have so far recognised Mr Guaido as Venezuela’s interim leader until new elections are held.

She called on the entire international community to join them, and to also freeze the assets of Mr Maduro’s “dictatorial regime”.

Ms Freeland added that the assets should be placed in the hands of the transition government.

The foreign minister was unequivocal in her stance that military intervention was not an option for Canada.

She said: “This is a process led by the people of Venezuela in their very brave quest to return their country themselves to democracy in accordance with their own constitution.”

Peru’s foreign minister Nestor Popolizio echoed those comments, saying: “We would not consider the use of force.”

Their remarks are in contrast to those of US President Donald Trump who has said the US military could intervene to resolve the crisis in Venezuela.

The South American country’s embattled leader has said he would resist a US intervention, and added: “Europe and the world need to know that the White House has been taken over by an extremist.

“It is like the Ku Klux Klan arrived in the White House and Donald Trump is the head of the KKK.

“He’s surrounded by a group of people they call the Venezuela team.”

Mr Maduro made the comments as he defies efforts by Western powers to recognise Mr Guaido as president.

He has rejected an EU ultimatum to call elections.

(c) Sky News 2019: Latin American countries call for Venezuelan military to back opposition leader Juan Guaido

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