Mon, 08 Mar 2021

BRUSSELS - Venezuela's Juan Guaido is a "privileged interlocutor" but no longer considered interim president, European Union states said in a statement on Monday, sticking by their decision to downgrade his status.

The EU's 27 states had said on Jan. 6 they could no longer legally recognize Guaido as after he lost his position as head of parliament following legislative elections in Venezuela in December, despite the EU not recognizing that vote.

Following the disputed re-election of President Nicolas Maduro in 2018, Guaido, as head of parliament, became interim president. Guaido is still seen by the United States and Britain as Venezuela's rightful leader.

The status of interim president gives Guaido access to funds confiscated from Maduro by Western governments, as well as affording him access to top officials and supporting his pro-democracy movement domestically and internationally.

The 27 EU members said in a joint statement that he was part of the democratic opposition - despite a resolution by the European Parliament last week for EU governments to maintain Guaido's position as head of state.

"The EU repeats its calls for ... the freedom and safety of all political opponents, in particular representatives of the opposition parties elected to the National Assembly of 2015, and especially Juan Guaido," the statement said following a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels.

The EU considers them to be important actors and privileged interlocutors," it said, calling for the opposition to unite against the disputed rule of Maduro.

The assembly elected in 2015 was held by the opposition, whereas the new assembly is in the hands of Maduro's allies, after the opposition called on Venezuelans to boycott the vote.

Guaido last week thanked the European Parliament for recognizing him as president of the National Assembly, a committee of lawmakers who assert they are the country's legitimate legislature, arguing the 2020 parliamentary elections were fraudulent.

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