Envoys Denounce Venezuela’s Maduro and Urge Him to Cede Power
Thirteen nations announced on Friday that they would not recognize the legitimacy of the new presidential term of Nicolás Maduro of Venezuela, who is set to be inaugurated next week for a second time.
Diplomats from Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Panama, Paraguay, Peru and St. Lucia issued a joint statement after meeting in the Peruvian capital, denouncing last year’s election as flawed and urging Mr. Maduro to hand power to the opposition-controlled National Assembly until another election could be held.
“The electoral process carried out in Venezuela on May 20, 2018, lacks legitimacy due to the lack of participation of all Venezuelan political actors, without the presence of independent international observers, or the guarantees and standards necessary for a free, fair and transparent process,” the statement read.
The signatories, part of the so-called Lima Group — a multilateral working group of Latin American countries plus Canada that organized to find a peaceful solution to the crisis in Venezuela — urged Mr. Maduro not to assume the office, saying that the only way to restore democracy was for him to step aside.
Mr. Maduro’s second term is set to begin next Thursday, but his re-election has been widely criticized as his country has fallen into political, economic and humanitarian crisis.
Political oppression, human rights abuses, high inflation and shortages of food and medicine have prompted millions to migrate, many to neighboring countries. In September, some of those neighbors urged the International Criminal Court to consider prosecuting senior officials in Venezuela.
The Lima Group on Friday also denounced the breakdown of the rule of law in Venezuela, saying that “only through the full restoration, as soon as possible, of democracy and respect for human rights” could the country recover.
While the United States is not part of the Lima Group, the State Department said Secretary of State Mike Pompeo participated in Friday’s meeting by video conference.
Earlier this week, Mr. Pompeo toured Latin America, meeting with allied nations and discussing the situation in Venezuela.
On Tuesday, he met with the foreign minister of Peru to discuss putting pressure on Mr. Maduro “to return democracy and prosperity to the Venezuelan people,” according to a spokesman for the State Department.
The next day, after Mr. Pompeo met with Brazil’s foreign minister, the State Department issued a similar note saying the two talked about working together on challenges in the region, “including supporting the people of Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua in restoring their democratic governance and their human rights.”
Mr. Pompeo also met with President Iván Duque of Colombia to discuss intervention in Venezuela. Venezuela’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs denounced that meeting and said both countries “seek to subjugate and violate the sovereignty and self-determination of the Venezuelan people.”
Venezuela’s government has long opposed what it sees as American interference in its affairs, particularly after President Trump’s administration scaled up sanctions on critical officials and held secret meetings with rebellious military officers to discuss their plans to overthrow Mr. Maduro.
Jorge Arreaza, Venezuela’s foreign minister, posted a vitriolic response on Twitter to reports that Mr. Pompeo had participated in the Lima Group meeting, saying that those involved were taking their orders from Mr. Trump.
He wrote: “What we have been affirming since the creation of this group of cartelized governments against Venezuela, which in theory does not belong to the US government: they meet to receive orders from @realDonaldTrump through @SecPompeo. What a display of humiliating subordination!”