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Venezuelan showdown moves to UN

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UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The United States urged all nations yesterday to support Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido while Russia accused the Trump administration of attempting “to engineer a coup d’etat” against President Nicolas Maduro — a reflection of the world’s deep divisions over the crisis in the embattled Latin American country.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told the UN Security Council at a meeting called by the United States that it’s beyond time to back the Venezuelan people as they try to free themselves from what he called Maduro’s “illegitimate mafia state” and back Guaido, who has declared himself the country’s interim president, arguing that Maduro’s re-election was fraudulent.

But Russia’s UN Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia said Venezuela doesn’t threaten international peace and security and accused “extremist opponents” of Maduro’s legitimate government of choosing “maximum confrontation,” including the artificial creation of a parallel government. He urged Pompeo to say whether the US will use military force.

Pompeo later told reporters who asked for a response, “I am not going to speculate or hypothesise on what the US will do next.”

What has played out in Venezuela and the world’s media between supporters and opponents of the Maduro government played out face-to-face in the chamber of the UN’s most powerful body, which has failed to take action on the Venezuelan crisis because of deep divisions, especially among the Security Council’s five veto-wielding permanent members.

The leaders of two of those council nations — France and Britain — joined Spain and Germany to turn up the pressure on Maduro yesterday, saying they would follow the US and others in recognising Guaido unless Venezuela calls new presidential elections within eight days.

But the opposition to Guaido was reflected in the initial procedural vote on whether the 15-member Security Council should even discuss the crisis in Venezuela, which is not on its official agenda.

The United States barely survived the vote to go ahead with the meeting, receiving the minimum nine “yes” votes from the council’s six Western nations along with Kuwait, Peru and the Dominican Republic. China, South Africa and Equatorial Guinea joined Russia in voting “no” while Indonesia and Ivory Coast abstained.

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