Venezuela claims win in LatAm diplo­matic dis­pute, ig­nores crit­i­cism of Maduro

Stabroek News Sunday - - WORLD NEWS -

CARA­CAS, (Reuters) - Venezuela’s gov­ern­ment claimed vic­tory yes­ter­day in a diplo­matic quar­rel with Latin Amer­i­can coun­tries over a bor­der dis­pute with Guyana, while ig­nor­ing an avalanche of crit­i­cism over Pres­i­dent Ni­co­las Maduro’s sec­ond term in of­fice.

Maduro had warned mem­bers of the so­called Lima Group of “diplo­matic mea­sures” after they said on Jan. 4 that they would not recog­nise his sec­ond term be­cause Venezuela’s 2018 elec­tion was not free or fair.

The state­ment, signed by na­tions in­clud­ing Brazil, Ar­gentina and Colom­bia, also ex­pressed con­cern that Venezuela had vi­o­lated Guyana’s sovereignty by stop­ping a ship do­ing off­shore oil ex­plo­ration on be­half of Exxon Mo­bil Corp.

For­eign Min­is­ter Jorge Ar­reaza said at a news con­fer­ence yes­ter­day that 10 of the 12 gov­ern­ments that signed the state­ment had since clar­i­fied their po­si­tion on the Guyana dis­pute.

“We be­lieve that re­gional diplo­macy has con­vinced these coun­tries” to re­con­sider the bor­der is­sue, Ar­reaza said. “Diplo­macy has en­sured the rule of law.”

He said he hoped that the other two coun­tries - Paraguay and Canada - would fol­low the ex­am­ple of the bloc’s other mem­bers. Paraguay cut diplo­matic ties with Venezuela on Thurs­day.

Ar­reaza did not ad­dress the Group’s broader point about the le­git­i­macy of Maduro, who was sworn in on Thurs­day, ex­cept to de­nounce the bloc’s Jan. 4 state­ment as “vul­gar” in­ter­fer­ence in Venezue­lan in­ter­nal af­fairs.

The OPEC na­tion’s 2018 vote was widely boy­cotted by the op­po­si­tion and con­demned as rigged by gov­ern­ments around the world. Maduro in­sists it was fair and that op­po­si­tion lead­ers did not take part be­cause they knew they would lose.

Speak­ing in Abu Dhabi yes­ter­day, U.S. Sec­re­tary of State Mike Pom­peo de­scribed Maduro’s gov­ern­ment as il­le­git­i­mate and said the United States would work with like-minded na­tions in Latin Amer­ica to re­store democ­racy in Venezuela.

Ar­reaza re­sponded on Twit­ter by ac­cus­ing Pom­peo of “openly pro­mot­ing a coup in Venezuela by en­cour­ag­ing the dis­avowal of the con­sti­tu­tion and the will of the peo­ple.”

The head of the coun­try’s op­po­si­tion­run Con­gress, Juan Guaido, said on Fri­day that he was pre­pared to as­sume the pres­i­dency on an in­terim ba­sis and call elec­tions, be­cause Maduro had been de­clared il­le­git­i­mate.

Con­gress has been stripped of pow­ers by the Supreme Court and a pro-Maduro leg­is­la­ture known as the Con­stituent Assem­bly has been ac­ti­vated, and the im­pact of Guaido’s re­marks was not im­me­di­ately clear. Brazil’s gov­ern­ment said yes­ter­day that it recog­nised the op­po­si­tion law­maker as the le­git­i­mate pres­i­dent of Venezuela.

Ni­co­las Maduro

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