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article imageEU, LatAm ministers call for free elections in Venezuela

By AFP     Feb 7, 2019 in World

Ministers from more than a dozen European and Latin American countries on Thursday called for "free, transparent and credible presidential elections" in Venezuela as a solution to the roiling political crisis there.

The International Contact Group (GCI) said it was committed to finding a "peaceful, democratic" way out of the power struggle between President Nicolas Maduro and opposition leader Juan Guaido "without the use of force."

The political standoff comes with Venezuela mired in economic crisis, marked by hyperinflation and shortages of food and medicine.

The GCI said it would make contact with Venezuelan authorities and regional and international partners to "establish the necessary guarantees for a credible electoral process, as soon as possible," and to allow in humanitarian aid sent by the United States to Colombia's border with Venezuela.

The GCI, which was meeting in Uruguay's capital Montevideo, said it would send a technical mission to Venezuela.

Self-proclaimed acting president Guaido has made bringing in humanitarian aid central to his challenge to Maduro's authority.

The socialist leader opposes any outside help as he claims it would precede a US-led invasion.

Although the group claims to convene countries with a "neutral" perspective on the Venezuelan political crisis, it made it clear which side it considers to have breached Venezuela's constitution.

It hit out at Maduro's government for "deaths and injuries caused by the excessive use of force," and said that to overcome the political crisis the regime must "restore full democracy, the rule of law, the separation of powers and respect for the consitutional mandate of the country's institutions, particularly the democratically elected National Assembly."

Guaido is president of the opposition-controlled National Assembly but the legislature has been powerless since 2016 after it was stripped of its powers by the Supreme Court, made up of regime loyalists.

Guaido's key demand is for Maduro to step down and hand power over to a transitional government ahead of new elections.

Maduro, for his part, has said he is prepared to sanction early legislative elections, but that would only serve to present him with a chance to take control of the one of Venezuela's five government branches dominated by the opposition.

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