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President Nicolas Maduro; Italian Deputy FM Di Stefano. Wikipedia

Italy’s Deputy FM urges EU to stop meddling in Venezuela

Italian Deputy Foreign Minister on Monday joined indignation expressed by Russia and China over efforts to meddle in crisis-hit Venezuela after the EU Parliament also voted, in a non-legislative resolution, to recognise opposition leader Juan Guaido as interim president of the oil-rich nation.

Published: February 2, 2019, 9:58 am

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    Guaido, the elected leader of the opposition-held National Assembly, declared himself the “interim president” of Venezuela on 23 January after President Nicolas Maduro was sworn in for a second term earlier.

    In addition to MEPs giving their “full support” for Venezuela’s opposition-controlled parliament, the EU called for fresh elections to be held in the country in a bid to “restore democracy”.

    Italian Deputy Foreign Minister Manlio Di Stefano warned on Thursday in an interview with Italy’s TV2000 network against a Libya-style regime change, adding that he “does not recognise” Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido as interim president over the constitutionally-elected leader.

    “Today, the greatest interest we have is to avoid a new war in Venezuela,” Regime change failed in Libya and must not be attempted again, as it turned out to be a “mistake” he said. “We must prevent this from happening in Venezuela,” he noted.

    Di Stefano said countries lending their support to Guaido, were meddling in Venezuela, and denounced the interference with the “internal policies of another country”. He added: “It is called the principle of non-interference and is recognized by the United Nations.”

    The Five Star Movement (M5S) politician’s comments were not supported by Italian Foreign Minister Enzo Moavero Milanesi, an independent, on Wednesday, but Milanesi stopped short of issuing an ultimatum to President Nicolas Maduro.

    Interior Minister Matteo Salvini also criticised efforts by the EU to influence internal politics the South American country, but Salvini called for fresh elections. “I am against exporting democracy but so many Italians living in Venezuela and Venezuelans living in Italy claim that Maduro foments violence and flouts the law,” Salvini said on Italy’s Rtl 102.5 radio station.

    “It’s clear that there is hunger, a shortage of medicines, lawlessness, violence, repression and a lack of democracy,” he continued. “So the sooner Venezuelans can freely return to the ballot box, the better it will be for everyone,” Salvini said.

    Italy’s Foreign Minister Enzo Moavero Milanesi said in a statement on Saturday that he “fully endorses” a statement by issued by several European countries suggesting that Guaido could be recognised as Venezuelan leader if Maduro does not announce fresh elections soon.

    Moavero said Italy had helped draft the statement signed by Spain, Germany, France and the UK.

    “We call for an effective national reconciliation and constructive initiatives aimed at avoiding serious and negative developments, assuring respect for fundamental rights and enabling a prompt return to democratic legitimacy, guaranteed by free and transparent new elections,” said Moavero.

    Daniel McAdams, director of the US Ron Paul Institute, meanwhile warned that the US and its European allies were pushing Venezuela towards a civil war.

    “Here we go again. This is like Syria redux. This is exactly what happened in Syria and in Libya. They’re playing the exact same game over and over again,” he said.

    “Obviously, the goal is the same – the overthrow of the government, the destruction of the country. The EU and US policy right now is leading directly toward a massive civil war in Venezuela.”

    On Monday, a photo taken from US National Security Advisor John Bolton’s notebook revealed a written message to send 5 000 troops to Colombia, which borders Venezuela. Plans for a US military intervention in Venezuela may be on the table. “The president said all options are on the table,” Bolton confirmed, highlighting an earlier remark by US President Donald Trump.

    “You’re so right to bring up the Syria example,” Helima Croft, head of commodity strategy at RBC Capital Markets, told CNBC.

    “That became a frozen conflict once the Russians intervened, but they had a [military] base there [in Syria] and so that was a key strategic, military asset that the Russians wanted to protect,” she said.

    “The question here is whether Venezuela constitutes the same type of asset for the Russians,” Croft said. “Apparently they’ve sent their military contractors down there, they’ve lent Venezuela a tremendous amount of money … I would argue that the Russians will be critical … how much financial support do they give to Maduro going forward?” she added.

    The Kremlin denied on Monday that it had sent as many as 400 private military contractors to Venezuela to back Maduro.

    Guaido is now recognised as the legitimate leader of Venezuela by some two dozen countries, but the United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has rejected an aid request by Venezuela’s self-proclaimed “interim president”, stressing that the body only cooperates with the country’s recognized government led by President Nicolas Maduro.

    Guaido most recently vowed to defy the Maduro administration’s order of accepting humanitarian aide by orchestrating a plan to ship large quantities of medicine into the country after the US granted him access to Venezuelan assets being kept at the New York Federal Reserve.

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