EU denounces Venezuela's 'irregular armed groups', backs elections

  1. At least 4 protesters were shot dead and almost 200 injured by rubber buckshot, pellets and fire bombs
  2. Opposition leader Juan Guaidó has called on other nations to consider "all measures" to oust President Nicolás Maduro

The European Union (EU) has condemned on Sunday, February 24, 2019 intimidation suffered by volunteers attempting to facilitate the entry of foreign aid in Venezuela, and has requested moderation from the country’s security agencies.

“We make a strong call to [Venezuela’s] security and law enforcement agencies to show restraint, avoid the use of force and allow the entry of aid,” said EU’s High Representative for Foreign Policy Federica Mogherini on behalf of the bloc.

International pressure mounted against Venezuela leader Nicolás Maduro, with Washington vowing to “take action” after opposition’s various efforts to bring food and medicine into the country plunged into street chaos.

Caracas has closed the border to prevent the entry of the foreign aid, which Mr Maduro claims is part of a US plot to overthrow his regime.

On Monday, February 4, 2019 International Red Cross regional officials representing Colombia, the Andean Countries and the Red Crescent Movement announced in Bogotá in a joint statement that they will not deliver aid to Venezuela.

They argue “impartiality, neutrality and independence” are needed for the IRC to participate “in any assistance delivery initiatives”, as well as an authorisation from Caracas (‘prior agreement’).

However, Mr Maduro has consistently rejected letting foreign aid into Venezuela, which he interprets as interference from Washington (EL PAÍS, in Spanish).

Meanwhile, Civil Defence officials in Colombia said at least 285 people had been wounded in the clashes. Another 31 people were wounded when Venezuelan troops opened fire on civilians hoping to collect aid across the border with Colombia, according to human rights group Foro Penal.

But the most serious incident came hundreds of miles away at Santa Elena de Uairén crossing point on the southern border with Brazil — at least four people were killed and 18 injured by gunfire.

The town’s hospital was overwhelmed by the influx of dead and injured.

In a statement, Ms Mogherini made clear that “we [the EU] reject the use of irregular armed groups to intimidate civilians and lawmakers who have mobilized to distribute aid,” and that the EU is ready to increase its humanitarian aid to Venezuela.

According to her, the origins of the Venezuela crisis are “political and institutional”, by which “the solution can only be political”.

“We reiterate our firm rejection. We condemn violence and any initiative that may further weaken the region.”

“We firmly renew our call for the restoration of democracy through free, transparent and credible presidential elections,” said Ms Mogherini. “The EU, through the International Contact Group it has promoted, is willing to support this process”.

Self-declared interim president Juan Guaidó called on the international community to consider “all measures to free Venezuela” after clashes at crossing points near the Colombia and Brazil borders left at least two people dead.

Mr Guaidó announced he would participate in the Lima Group meeting — consisting of Latin American countries mostly — on Monday in Bogotá.

He also called on the international community to be prepared for “all possibilities” regarding Mr Maduro. Washington will be represented at the meeting by Vice President Mike Pence.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the United States “will take action“.

In Madrid, Spain’s Senate House Speaker Pío García-Escudero denounced that Mr Maduro was “dancing salsa” while protesters in the border towns of Ureña and San Antonio were kept at bay by the Venezuelan National Guard firing tear gas and rubber bullets.

Mr García-Escudero said Venezuelan troops were “intercepting medicines, killing people, slaughtering freedom”.

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