Venezuela's Guaido says he wants Italy's backing: newspaper

Venezuela's Guaido says he wants Italy's backing: newspaper

February 4, 2019

ROME (Reuters) – Venezuela’s opposition leader Juan Guaido said in a newspaper interview published on Monday he would do all he could to secure Italy’s backing after the government split on whether to recognize him as interim president.

As nine European nations expressed support for Guaido on Monday, challenging Nicolas Maduro’s socialist rule, Italy was silent due to a split within the coalition government.

“We’ll do everything possible so that the Italian government adds its support – which is very important for us – to that expressed by the rest of the European Union,” Guaido told the Corriere della Sera newspaper.

Italian President Sergio Mattarella, who plays a mainly ceremonial role and usually stays out of day-to-day politics, urged the government to hammer out its differences and express support for Guaido.

“We must demonstrate responsibility and clarity with a common line taken by all our EU partners and allies,” Mattarella said at an event in Rome on Monday.

Venezuelans of Italian origin are a large and influential group in the South American country.

“Handing out ultimatums, sanctions, freezing Venezuelan goods … It would mean opening the road to a military intervention,” said Alessandro Di Battista, a prominent figure in the 5-Star Movement, which makes up half of the ruling coalition.

“The 5-Star Movement and this government will never recognize people who appoint themselves president,” he added.

5-Star’s governing partner, the League, has come out strongly in favor of Guaido.

“Maduro is one of the last leftist dictators left, and he governs with the use of force and is starving his people. The hope is that there will be free elections as soon as possible,” League leader Matteo Salvini said in a statement on Monday.

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