President Nicolás Maduro faced increasing international pressure on Saturday, as European governments threatened to recognize his chief opponent as Venezuela’s leader unless a plan for new elections is announced within eight days. The statements from Germany, France, Spain, the Netherlands and Britain came as U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo pressed the United Nations to throw its support behind Juan Guaidó, the leader of the opposition-controlled National Assembly, who declared himself president on Wednesday. The United States and most Latin American countries have recognized Guaidó as interim leader in recent days, after Maduro was sworn in for a second term following elections riddled with fraud. But Russia, China and others have defended Maduro. Guaidó’s actions have represented the most significant challenge yet to Maduro, whose socialist policies have contributed to an economic meltdown in this oil-rich country.
“After banning opposition candidates, ballot box stuffing and counting irregularities in a deeply flawed election it is clear Nicolas Maduro is not the legitimate leader of Venezuela,” Jeremy Hunt, Britain’s foreign minister, tweeted Saturday.
Maduro responded to the U.S. recognition of Guaidó on Wednesday by severing relations and giving American diplomats 72 hours to leave the country. Pompeo, however, declared that Maduro’s orders were no longer legitimate and that the embassy would remain open. As the deadline approached on Saturday, the U.S. Embassy in Caracas appeared to still be functioning. There was no sign of any unusual Venezuelan security presence at the massive, reinforced-concrete building in the Andean foothills.