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Lima Group urges Venezuela troops to let aid in

Wednesday, February 06, 2019

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MADRID, Spain (AP) — A coalition of Western Hemisphere nations is urging Venezuela's military to allow badly needed food and medicine to enter the country as the bloc pushes for a peaceful transition of power in the South American nation.

The call came Monday from the Lima Group, which is made up of nearly a dozen conservative Latin American nations and Canada. It has led the push to recognise Opposition lawmaker Juan Guaido as Venezuela's rightful leader and seeks ways to remove President Nicolas Maduro.

The coalition met Monday in Ottawa and issued a declaration saying Venezuela's soldiers must show loyalty to Guaido. The group also said the United Nations and the international community should be ready to step in with humanitarian assistance for Venezuela.

Further, the bloc dismissed the idea of opening negotiations with Maduro, who has used past talks as a stalling tactic.

The interim Government challenging Venezuelan socialist Nicolas Maduro says it will hold an international conference to seek emergency humanitarian assistance at the headquarters of the Organization of American States in Washington.

Carlos Vecchio was recently designated as ambassador to Washington by the interim government headed by the opposition leader Juan Guaido, said that that governments, private sector and civil society representatives will attend the February 14 conference.

Dozens of countries have now recognised Guaido as interim president, but many others back Maduro, who holds practical power in the country.

At least three million Venezuelans have left their country due to an acute shortage of medicines and food.

At then same time, Poland and Croatia have joined at least 14 other other European Union nations in recognising Juan Guaido as interim president of Venezuela.

Croatia's Foreign Ministry says in a statement Monday that it “strongly condemns the breach of human rights and the rule of law” by Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro.

Guaidio is the head of the opposition-led National Assembly and declared himself Venezuela's legitimate ruler on January 23.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres says he has been in contact with supporters of the rival initiatives to deal with the Venezuela crisis and has decided the United Nations won't be part of any of them.

He told reporters Monday that he took the decision “in order to give credibility to our continued offer of good offices to the parties to be able at their request to help find a political solution.”

Guterres said he has been following the evolution of the situation in Venezuela with “a lot of concern”.

The presidents of Mexico and Uruguay have offered to negotiate between socialist President Nicolas Maduro and Opposition Leader Juan Guaido, but Guaido rejected the offer.

European Parliament President Antonio Tajani is pressing Italy's populist Government to side with other EU countries on Venezuela.

He told reporters Monday in Rome that Italy's coalition Government should heed the words of Italian President Sergio Mattarella, who earlier in the day urged Italy to adopt a shared position with EU partners and allies.

At least 12 EU countries have recognised Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido as interim president, rejecting the legitimacy of socialist President Nicolas Maduro.

Italy's squabbling government coalition hasn't joined them, instead calling for reconciliation and new and free elections in Venezuela.

Tajani slammed the Italian Government position as “very grave” and urged it to follow Mattarella's “very clear' message for EU unity on Venezuela's political crisis.

In the meantime, Opposition Leader Juan Guaido is calling on Western nations to continue applying pressure to oust Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.

He made his comments in a video message ahead of a meeting in Ottawa by the Lima Group, a group of countries from the Americas that oppose Maduro and recognise Guaido as the country's legitimate interim leader.

Guaido said that Venezuelans are still under a dictatorship and that it is becoming increasingly important to apply pressure on Maduro.

Two dozen foreign affairs ministers, ambassadors and other officials from the Americas and Europe heard Guaido's message while gathered in Ottawa to define the terms of their opposition to the Maduro regime.

President Nicolas Maduro is, however, again rejecting moves by at least eight European nations recognising Opposition Leader Guaido as Venezuela's legitimate president.

Germany, Britain and France are among the nations that announced support for Guaido on Monday. The EU nations say Maduro's election was fraudulent and that he ignored their deadline to announce a new round of democratic presidential elections.


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