Who backs whom in Venezuela crisis

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"I told him that I serve Christ's cause... and in this spirit I asked for his help, in a process of facilitating and strengthening dialogue", said Maduro, who has rejected calls for snap presidential elections.

"The people will never surrender", the embattled Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro has declared as he condemned what he called the "cowardly" and "disastrous" move by Britain and other European countries to recognise his opponent Juan Guaidó as interim president.

Russian Federation and China, which have poured billions of dollars of investment and loans into Venezuela, are supporting Maduro in an extension of their geopolitical clashes with Washington.

"The United Kingdom now recognises Juan Guaido as the constitutional interim President of Venezuela, until credible presidential elections can be held".

Maduro was especially harsh on fellow socialist and Spain's Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, saying he would have "blood on his hands" if Maduro is toppled.

"From today, we will spare no effort in helping all Venezuelans achieve freedom, prosperity and harmony", Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said, urging both fair elections and humanitarian aid.

He said Spain, which has a large Venezuelan community, is also working on a humanitarian aid program for Venezuela, where shortages of basic items are acute. Sweden, Denmark, Austria, the Netherlands and Lithuania also lined up behind Guaido, who also has the backing of the United States and many South American nations. "Venezuelans have the right to express themselves freely and democratically", he wrote on Twitter.

But in the interview with Sexta, Maduro said he would not "cave in to pressure" from those calling for his departure.

The Europeans, instead of immediately following Washington's decision, gave Mr Maduro an eight-day deadline to call fresh elections, or else have his authority removed.

Italy is not alone in opposing recognising Guaido. We did not participate, none of us, at the inauguration of Maduro on January 10.

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The bloc wants Maduro to hold new elections after last year's vote is disputed.

The 14-nation so-called Lima Group, which includes Canada and Latin American countries such as Brazil and Mexico but not the United States, met in Ottawa to discuss the way forward on Venezuela.

On Monday, oil prices rose to their highest level yet this year on European markets on the back of the crisis in Venezuela.

What started as a trickle has turned into a flow of European Union countries who have now officially declared Guaido as interim president.

Meanwhile, the opposition was moving ahead with a risky strategy to bring in humanitarian aid from Colombia, hoping to break the all-important military's loyalty to Maduro.

Maduro then continued his accusations against the Trump administration, which he claims is preparing a coup and that "the military option is on [President] Donald Trump's table".

"I think we are at a very critical point in the history of Venezuela", said Alan Duncan, Britain's junior foreign minister, among a number of European representatives attending the Lima Group meeting.

"The most important issue now is to get Europe in line and to deepen the isolation of Venezuela and its backers", said a government official in Bogota, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

All eyes are now on Venezuela's military, which has so far been Maduro's main pillar of support, but there have been signs of unrest in the ranks.

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