Nations form group to deal with Venezuela crisis
The European Union says that a newly formed "International Contact Group" of European and Latin American countries will hold its first meeting in Uruguay on Thursday to address the crisis in Venezuela.
A joint statement from EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini and Uruguayan President Tabare Vazquez on Sunday said that the meeting in Montevideo will be held at ministerial level.
The contact group includes the EU and eight of its member countries - France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and Britain - as well as Latin American nations Bolivia, Costa Rica, Ecuador and Uruguay.
Its stated aim is "contributing to create conditions for a political and peaceful process to emerge, enabling Venezuelans to determine their own future" through free and credible elections.
Venezuela's socialist President Nicolas Maduro i9s proposing to hold early National Assembly elections that could potentially oust his challenger, whose role as head of congress gives him standing to assert he's the country's legitimate leader.
Maduro's call for early legislative voting is likely to intensify his standoff with rival Juan Guaido, who is demanding a new presidential election. Guaido, the congress and many foreign nations consider Maduro's re-election last year to be an invalid sham.
Guaido told supporters Saturday that he'll keep his opposition movement in the streets until Maduro agrees to a presidential election overseen by international observers. He also called for soldiers to abandon Maduro and back him.
Maduro also dug in his heels, insisting he was the only president of Venezuela and describing Saturday's large anti-government protests as part of a U.S.-led coup attempt.