January 28, 2019 11:03:40
The Australian Government has recognised Venezuela’s Opposition Leader, Juan Guaido, as the country’s legitimate leader.
It follows similar declarations by the US, Britain, Germany and France.
Venezuela has sunk into turmoil under President Nicolas Maduro, with ongoing food shortages and daily protests amid an economic and political crisis.
In a statement, Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne said Australia would support Mr Guaido until elections were called.
“Australia calls for a transition to democracy in Venezuela as soon as possible,” Senator Payne said.
“We now urge all parties to work constructively towards a peaceful resolution of the situation, including a return to democracy, respect for the rule of law and upholding of human rights of the Venezuelan people.”
The struggle for control in Venezuela turned to the military, as supporters of Mr Guaido handed leaflets to soldiers detailing a proposed amnesty law that would protect them for helping overthrow Mr Maduro.
At the same time, Mr Maduro demonstrated his might, wearing tan fatigues at military exercises.
Addressing soldiers in an appearance on state TV, Mr Maduro asked whether they were plotting with the “imperialist” United States, which he accused of openly leading a coup against him.
“No, my commander-in-chief,” they shouted in unison.
Mr Maduro responded: “We’re ready to defend our homeland, under any circumstance.”
Military in centre stage
The duelling appeals from the two rivals again puts the military centre stage in the global debate over who holds a legitimate claim to power in the South American nation.
The standoff has plunged troubled Venezuela into a new chapter of political turmoil that has already left more than two dozen dead as thousands took to the streets demanding Mr Maduro step down.
It erupted when Mr Guaido declared before masses of supporters last week that he had temporarily assumed presidential powers, vowing to hold free elections and end Mr Maduro’s dictatorship.
Mr Maduro had started his second term as Venezuela’s President on January 10, following a widely boycotted election last year, which many foreign governments described as a sham.
Venezuela’s constitution says if the presidency is determined to be vacant, new elections should be called in 30 days and the head of congress should assume the presidency in the meantime.
But Mr Maduro has so far refused to step down and has accused the Opposition of seeking to stage a coup.
January 28, 2019 10:14:05