South America

Australia backs Venezuela's opposition leader Juan Guaido as interim president

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Australia has sided with nations in Europe and Latin America in recognising opposition leader Juan Guaido as the interim president of Venezuela.

The Australian government has announced support for Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido after he announced himself interim president on Wednesday.

"Australia recognises and supports the President of the National Assembly, Juan Guaido, in assuming the position of interim president, in accordance with the Venezuelan constitution and until elections are held," Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne said in a statement.

The President of the National Assembly of Venezuela Juan Guaido (C).
Australia has joined the US in backing Juan Guaido as the interim president of Venezuela.
AAP


"Australia calls for a transition to democracy in Venezuela as soon as possible."

The announcement comes after the United States called on the world to "pick a side" on Venezuela, as the country grapples with deadly mass protests and political unrest. 

Mr Guaido claims he is entitled to the presidency on the basis that President Nicolas Maduro's reelection to a second six-year term was fraudulent.

Mr Maduro cruised to reelection last May amid low turnout and allegations of vote buying by the government.

Australia has now joined Britain, France, Germany, Spain, Canada and a string of Latin American countries in recognising Mr Guaido as Venezuela's interim leader until elections are able to be held in the conflict-stricken country.

Mr Maduro, who has led the oil-rich nation since 2013 and has the support of the armed forces, has refused to stand down and rejected an international ultimatum to call elections within eight days.

Britain, Germany, France and Spain all said they would recognise Mr Guaido as the country's leader if Mr Maduro failed to call fresh elections, an ultimatum Russia said was "absurd" and the Venezuelan foreign minister called "childlike."

Following the ultimatum on Saturday, Mr Maduro told CNN Turk that "no one can give us an ultimatum".

"Venezuela is not tied to Europe. This is complete insolence," he said.

Many have labelled Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro's second-term election win fraudulent.
Many have labelled Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro's second-term election win fraudulent.
AAP

"Australia supported the Lima Group's early call for Nicolas Maduro to refrain from assuming the presidency on 10 January, relayed through our non-resident Ambassador to Venezuela," Ms 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."

Late last week, Senator Payne said Australia was concerned about what was a "clearly deteriorating" political, economic, security and humanitarian situation in Venezuela.

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