BRUSSELS—The European Parliament recognized Venezuela’s self-declared interim president Juan Guaido as de facto head of state on Jan. 31, heightening international pressure on socialist President Nicolas Maduro, a member of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries.
EU lawmakers voted 439 in favor to 104 against, with 88 abstentions, at a special session in Brussels to recognize Venezuelan congress head Guaido as interim leader.
In a statement with the non-binding vote, the parliament urged the bloc’s 28 governments to follow suit and consider Guaido “the only legitimate interim president” until there were “new free, transparent and credible presidential elections.”
British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, who spoke to Guaido on Jan. 30 and wants further EU sanctions on Venezuelan officials, urged counterparts to embrace the 35-year-old head of Venezuela’s National Assembly.
“Parliament has spoken. For us, Mr. Guaido is the president of Venezuela and we do hope that the European Union will find a united position on this,” he told reporters upon arrival at a two-day meeting of EU foreign ministers in Bucharest.
Hungary’s Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said he was ready to join a common position on Venezuela if the bloc could agree what next steps to take.
Though accusing Maduro of stifling democracy, the European Union is nervous at the precedent of a self-declaration, so has been reluctant to follow the United States and most Latin American nations with immediate recognition of Guaido.
Britain, France, Germany, and Spain said on Jan. 26, however, that they would recognize Guaido unless Maduro called elections within eight days. But the EU as a whole has not set a time limit in its call for a new presidential vote.
Maduro has dismissed the demands as an unacceptable ultimatum from the corrupt elite of spent colonial powers.
The European Parliament has no foreign policy powers but sees itself as a champion of human rights.
By Robin Emmott