EU urges progress on Venezuela to avoid ‘chaotic’ endgame
European Union’s foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini called Thursday for a peaceful solution to the crisis
EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini called Thursday for a peaceful solution to the crisis in Venezuela to avoid a “chaotic and dangerous” unravelling of a tense political standoff between president Nicolas Maduro and his opposition rival Juan Guaido.
Ministers from more than a dozen European and Latin American states began meeting in Montevideo to negotiate a solution to the crisis as the rival leaders clashed in Caracas over allowing humanitarian aid into the impoverished country.
“The task before us is urgent and this urgency comes from the worsening of the situation that risks destabilizing the entire region, and not only the region,” Ms Mogherini told ministers at the start of the meeting.
“Millions of people have already left the country, and many more are fleeing during these hours.
“Therefore, it is essential to avoid internal violence and external intervention, and to open a path for a political process that leads to early elections,” the EU official said.
Dozens of pro-Maduro supporters protested outside the meeting in Montevideo against US intervention in the country.
Mr Maduro – having rejected an EU ultimatum on organising snap presidential elections – welcomed the Contact Group meeting in Montevideo and expressed support for “all steps and initiatives to facilitate dialogue”.
But Mr Guaido, who on January 23 declared himself Venezuela’s interim president and is now recognised by 40 countries, has strongly rejected any talks with the government, dismissing it as a way for Mr Maduro to buy time.
The 35-year-old National Assembly leader has ramped up pressure for Mr Maduro’s departure with a series of mass protests, the next of which is scheduled for February 12.
In Montevideo, Ms Mogherini said the Contact Group’s objective was “not to impose processes or solutions on Venezuelans” and that the solution must come from the people themselves.
“The objective is not to establish direct mediation or negotiation. But we believe that an international initiative is important to accompany a peaceful and democratic exit from the current crisis through free, transparent and credible presidential elections.”
Ms Mogherini admitted that views around the negotiating table in Montevideo were divided.
On Wednesday, ahead of the meeting, Uruguay and Mexico – among the few Latin American countries that did not recognize Mr Guaido – proposed a dialogue without pre-conditions.
“If we demand elections at this time, we impose conditions that make dialogue difficult,” Uruguayan foreign minister Rodolfo Nin Novoa said in a joint statement of the two governments.
Mexico was attending the meeting, but did not wish to formally join the Contact Group.
Updated: February 7, 2019 10:40 PM