Venezuelan opposition leader and self-declared interim president Juan Guaido said Monday that President Nicolas Maduro is trying to transfer up to $1.2 billion to a bank in Uruguay.
Speaking on national television after over a dozen European countries officially recognized him as Venezuela's leader, Guaido claimed, without presenting evidence, that Maduro was moving the money from state development bank Bandes to a financial entity in Uruguay.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the United States, which recognized Guaido as interim president last week, welcomed Monday's decision by European countries, including Austria, France, Germany, Sweden and Britain to follow suit.
"We are also heartened by the European Parliament's January 31 resolution recognizing Juan Guaido as interim president. They join the United States and more than 23 other countries in recognizing Juan Guaido as interim president, in accordance with Venezuela's constitution," Pompeo said in a statement.
The announcements came after a number of countries gave Maduro a deadline to hold free and fair elections, or else they would recognize Guaido, who declared himself interim president in January, as the leader of the South American country.
Guaido said during a recent VOA interview he would order new elections "when we achieve the capacity to convene elections." First, Guaido said, "we have to achieve the necessary force in order for this usurpation to end."
In New York Monday, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the United Nations will not participate in any groups of countries looking to resolve the political crisis in Venezuela.
"The UN secretariat has decided not to be part of any of these groups in order to give credibility to our continued offer of good offices to the parties to be able at their request to help find a political solution," Guterres told reporters.
#UNSG @antonioguterres says the #UN will not go to meeting on #Venezuela Thursday in #Uruguay or be part of other initiatives in order to preserve credibility of his continued offer of Good Offices to find a political solution to crisis. @VOANoticias pic.twitter.com/Mo3ftotj1v— Margaret Besheer (@mbesheer) February 4, 2019
British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt posted on Twitter: "Nicolas Maduro has not called Presidential elections within 8 day limit we have set. So UK alongside European allies now recognizes @jguaido as interim constitutional president until credible elections can be held. Let's hope this take us closer to ending humanitarian crisis."
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said Monday in Madrid that "...we are working for the return of full democracy in Venezuela..."
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told France Inter Radio that the Venezuelan crisis would end "peacefully" with an early presidential election.
In Moscow, Russian President Vladimir Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov criticized Monday's European declarations as "attempts to legitimize usurped power" and "interference in Venezuela's internal affairs."
Maduro has presided over a Venezuelan economic collapse that has resulted in chronic shortages of food and medicine. He blames the U.S. for supporting what he calls a coup to remove him from power and exploit Venezuela's vast oil reserves.
On Monday, Canada announced at an emergency meeting of the Lima group that it would provide $53 million in aid to Venezuela.
"The bulk of the funds will go to trusted partners and neighboring countries to help them support Venezuela and Venezuelans," Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told the group, which includes Canada and 13 Latin American countries.
Margaret Besheer contributed to this report.