US asks world to ‘pick a side’ on Venezuela as UK calls for fair elections

Britain has issued the embattled Venezuelan president, Nicolás Maduro, a stark ultimatum, warning him it would throw its weight behind the country’s self-declared interim leader unless he called an election within the next eight days – as the US government called on the world to “pick a side” in the crisis.

Echoing calls from Berlin, Paris and Madrid, Jeremy Hunt, the foreign secretary, said on Saturday it was clear Maduro was no longer the legitimate leader of the Latin American country after last year’s “deeply flawed” election.

The coordinated move by western powers to boost the opposition challenger Juan Guaidó came as the US secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, addressed the United Nations security council in New York and not only said that it was now time for countries to “pick a side” on Venezuela after Washington recognised Guaidó as the nation’s head of state but also urged countries to disconnect financially from Maduro’s government.

Pompeo said: “Either you stand with the forces of freedom, or you’re in league with Maduro and his mayhem. Now it is time for every other nation to pick a side. No more delays, no more games.”

In heated back-and-forth exchanges at a UN security council meeting, the opposing camp led by Venezuela and Russia, which has invested heavily in Venezuela’s oil industry, accused Washington of attempting a coup and lambasted Europeans’ demand that elections be called within eight days.

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