NEW YORK – US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo pressed all nations Saturday to “stand with the forces of freedom” in Venezuela, encouraged by a tougher European line as Russia stood in the minority in backing embattled leader Nicolas Maduro.
Pompeo made a forceful case at a special session of the United Nations Security Council, where he described Maduro as part of an “illegitimate mafia state” responsible for Venezuela’s economic collapse.
With mounting protests over Venezuela’s crisis in which more than two million have fled shortages of basic food and medicine, Pompeo asked all nations to follow the US in recognizing opposition leader Juan Guaido as the interim president.
“Now it is time for every other nation to pick a side. No more delays, no more games. Either you stand with the forces of freedom, or you’re in league with Maduro and his mayhem,” Pompeo said.
He also urged all countries to end financial transactions with Maduro’s government, which has struggled to pay bills despite the country’s oil wealth.
Pompeo denounced Russia and China, which have stood by Maduro, saying that they were “propping up a failed regime in the hopes of recovering billions of dollars in ill-considered investments and assistance made over the years.”
Russia of course denounced the United States for interference and attempted to block the Security Council meeting, but it was voted down with nine of the 15 members agreeing to go forward.
But Russia blocked a draft Security Council statement seen by AFP that would have offered full support to Guaido and called the National Assembly that he heads “Venezuela’s only democratically elected institution.”
“Venezuela does not pose any threat to peace and security. The intention of the United States is to orchestrate a coup d’etat,” said the Russian ambassador, Vassily Nebenzia.
He accused the United States of continuing to treat Latin America as a “backyard where you can do anything you want” and, in a shot at the Europeans, said Russia would not raise France’s populist Yellow Vest protests at the Security Council.
Meanwhile, The European Union and several of its member governments gave embattled Venezuelan leader Nicolas Maduro an ultimatum on Saturday, saying they would recognize opposition leader Juan Guaido as president unless he calls elections within eight days.
But Venezuela’s foreign minister rejected the warnings, saying “nobody is going to give us deadlines or tell us if there are elections or not”.
The coordinated announcements are the most explicit yet from EU countries as the 28-member bloc struggles to draft a joint statement with regards to its position on the crisis in Venezuela.