US military move in Venezuela on hold; EU urges new elections


The United States and two of its key Latin American allies are not planning an imminent military intervention in crisis-racked Venezuela, US President Donald Trump ‘s national security adviser said Friday.

Instead, the goal of the US and its allies is for Venezuela’s leftist president, Nicolas Maduro , to relinquish power via a “peaceful transition,” John Bolton said.

In an interview with conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt, Bolton answered “no” when asked whether a military intervention by the US, Brazil or Colombia, or a combined force, was imminent.

He added, however, that Trump still considers that all options are on the table in terms of the US’s goal of ousting Maduro.

Bolton also warned Maduro that if he does not voluntarily leave power in the near future he could end up at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba, where the US has a detention camp for terrorism suspects.

Maduro won a second term in last May’s presidential balloting by a wide margin, but much of the opposition boycotted the process and rejected the result as illegitimate, a stance shared by the US and numerous nations in Latin America and Europe.

The opposition consider Maduro - the successor to firebrand leftist leader Hugo Chavez , who ruled Venezuela from 1999 until his death in 2013 - to be a usurper.

The political crisis intensified on Jan. 23 when the speaker of the opposition-controlled National Assembly, Juan Guaido proclaimed himself the country’s legitimate leader.

Washington and its hemispheric allies formally recognized Guaido as interim head of state last week and the European Parliament followed suit on Thursday.

But the European Union executive is taking a different tack, attempting to bypass the Maduro-Guaido standoff in favor of calling for new elections in Venezuela.

EU diplomatic chief Federica Mogherini said Friday that the bloc decided to create an international initiative to promote a peaceful end to the current situation within a period of three months.

“Some of you who know me well know that I tend to be optimistic, but in this case, I do not have particularly positive expectations,” Mogherini said at an EU foreign ministers meeting in Bucharest.

She said that the aim of the contact group, comprising both European and Latin American countries, was to ensure free and fair elections held under internationally recognized conditions, not to mediate between Guaido and Maduro.

Several individual European governments, including Spain, Germany and the United Kingdom, have made clear their intention to recognize Guaido.

Among Latin American nations, Cuba, Bolivia and Nicaragua remain solidly behind Maduro, while Mexico and Uruguay are calling for mediation.

Uruguay and Bolivia have agree to participate in the EU-sponsored contact group.

An estimated 3 million Venezuelans have emigrated in recent years to escape high inflation, shortages of basic goods and political turmoil, but more than 20,000 of them have returned to the country since last September aboard repatriation flights arranged by the Maduro government, Venezuela’s charge d’affaires in Ecuador said Friday.

Some Venezuelan expats are not content in Ecuador, Pedro Sassone told reporters, noting that many of his compatriots - even those with advanced degrees and professional qualifications - have been unable to obtain permanent employment and find themselves reduced to eking out a living at odd jobs.

The migrants also feel a “sensation of unease” over a wave of xenophobic attacks that followed the murder by a Venezuelan man of his pregnant Ecuadorian girlfriend, the diplomat said.