European Parliament votes to recognize Guaidó as Venezuela's interim president

European Parliament votes to recognize Guaidó as Venezuela's interim president
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The European Parliament voted Thursday to recognize opposition leader Juan Guaidó as Venezuela's interim president, bolstering his claim to leadership.
 
While the vote is nonbinding, it showed overwhelming support for Guaidó, with 439 members voting in favor to 104 against, with 88 abstentions, according to Reuters.
 
Guaidó, the head of the Venezuelan National Assembly, was sworn in as interim president on Jan. 23 and received U.S. recognition almost immediately.
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Many Latin American countries followed suit, but European powers have yet to recognize Guaidó as Venezuela's interim president over leader Nicolás Maduro.
 
With the vote Thursday, the European Parliament urged the bloc's 28 member nations to recognize Guaidó as "the only legitimate interim president" until Venezuela is able to call free and fair elections.
 
Guaidó's claim to the presidency is based on the Venezuelan constitution, which says that in the absence of a legitimately elected president, the head of the National Assembly takes over as interim president.
 
Venezuelan election officials said Maduro won the country's May 2018 election, but the election was widely considered illegitimate and its results were not recognized by the European Union.
 
The Trump administration has sought to put pressure on the international community over the past week to support Guaidó.
 
Britain, France, Germany and Spain have said they will recognize Guaidó's claim to the presidency if Maduro does not call new elections by Feb. 3.
 
Maduro's government balked at the deadline, which European leaders offered last weekend.
 
"Nobody is going to give us deadlines or tell us if there are elections or not," said Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza, according to Agence France-Presse.
 
Despite the push from the EU's larger members, other members would not necessarily have to follow suit.
 
The EU has also set up a ministerial-level contact group to find a negotiated solution.
 
The group includes France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Portugal, the Netherlands and Britain from Europe, as well as Ecuador, Costa Rica, Uruguay and Bolivia from Latin America, television network France24 reported.
 
But EU diplomatic chief Federica Mogherini made clear the group's purpose is to negotiate a path to new elections in Venezuela — not for Maduro to gain time.
 
"The purpose of the international contact group is clear — it is enabling Venezuelans to express themselves freely and democratically through the holding of new elections," said Mogherini.