Photo: The Independent retrieved
To the moment I write these lines, 5:45 pm on February 4 in Caracas time, 21 European countries have recognized Juan Guaidó as caretaker president of Venezuela: Spain, France, Germany, United Kingdom, Iceland, Macedonia, Croatia, Hungary, Poland, Lithuania, Austria, Latvia, Denmark, Portugal, Sweden, Netherlands, the Czech Republic, Luxembourg, Estonia, Albania, and Finland.
Now we must wait for the practical consequences of that recognition: what will happen with the Venezuelan personnel at embassies and consulates, and if the Maduro regime will expel European diplomats, or which Venezuelan assets and accounts will be frozen or transferred to the interim government.
But we can see now two fresh layers in the already vertiginous complexity of this crisis.
On February 4 in Caracas time, 21 European countries have recognized Juan Guaidó as caretaker president of Venezuela
One, the legitimacy of the interim government that the National Assembly speaker is working to form is taken as a fact by more than 40 countries, including many of the greatest economic, military, cultural, and political actors not only in Europe but in the world. It is quite a quantitative and qualitative advantage in the accounts of democratic forces. While China seems to wait to know who’s going to answer for its interests and investments in Venezuela, Russia plays his predictable role of making noise and destabilizing situations, and AMLO’s Mexico tries to find a way of protecting Maduro without falling in the extreme spectrum of Cuba or Nicaragua, almost all the remaining major economies consider Guaidó as the head of Venezuelan government: the United States, Canada, Brazil, Germany, Japan, France, Spain, and Argentina. The administrations of Portugal and Spain even decided to face internal pressures from leftists allies and defy Maduro; the Spanish president, PSOE’s chief Pedro Sánchez, chose to confront its parliamentary allies, full Chavista Podemos, and led the European avalanche that reached Venezuela just when a new commemoration of Chávez attempted coup of 1992 was about to start.
Two, the wave of European recognition exposed a common, coordinated message, which differs from the US approach to this mess: these Europeans governments are all saying at once that they support the AN and its speaker as the vehicles to organize credible elections in Venezuela. The Trump administration and Senator Marco Rubio are talking mostly of the two first points of the Guaidó mantra: cese de la usurpación (an elegant way of saying the removal of Maduro from the presidency) and gobierno de transición (the transfer of institutional power and income to the AN from the Maduro regime). But the Europeans are now a chorus on the third point: elecciones libres.
Les Vénézuéliens ont le droit de s’exprimer librement et démocratiquement. La France reconnaît @jguaido comme « président en charge » pour mettre en œuvre un processus électoral. Nous soutenons le Groupe de contact, créé avec l’UE, dans cette période de transition.
— Emmanuel Macron (@EmmanuelMacron) February 4, 2019
El Gobierno de #España impulsará el Grupo de Contacto Internacional creado por la UE para acompañar a #Venezuela en la convocatoria de elecciones libres y democráticas.
Dedicaremos todo nuestro esfuerzo para alcanzar la paz, la libertad y la concordia del pueblo venezolano. pic.twitter.com/QzUj9uIl3Q
— Pedro Sánchez (@sanchezcastejon) February 4, 2019
— DW Politics (@dw_politics) February 4, 2019
Europe is forced to communicate in its own style. These are not the years when Tony Blair and José María Aznar followed George W. Bush’s lines in the name of the “special relationship”: at this time of the 21st century, Europe needs to show it speaks a language different to that of the United States, even more now that the American president has a voice so strange to the sophisticated accents of political and diplomatic customs at L’Elysée or 10 Downing Street. The same must be said about the centrist government of Justin Trudeau in Canada.
However, is not just a matter of style: Europe, as well as the Lima Group, is pushing into the discussion about the Venezuelan crisis, inside and outside the country, an emphasis in free elections. Synced with Canada and the Latin American countries gathered in the Lima Group, the European states which recognize Guaidó as caretaker president are balancing the weight of the menace of armed American intervention that Mike Pompeo, John Bolton and Marco Rubio have been building up in the public opinion.
Europe is pushing into the discussion about the Venezuelan crisis, inside and outside the country, an emphasis in free elections.
There are several reasons, in general linked to internal political realities, that keep other European countries reluctant to recognize Guaidó -that is what we must expect from the populist far-left parties of the Greek and Italian ruling coalitions, for instance. But in the meantime, those who have done it, numerous and in some cases undoubtedly powerful, are defending along with the Lima Group a most plausible, pacific, and palatable outcome: free elections and massive assistance. Which is what we Venezuelans really need and want.