European Union countries part of 'a gringo plot' against Venezuela, Maduro claims

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He says the "Maduro regime must LET THE AID REACH THE STARVING PEOPLE" of Venezuela.

Speaking to reporters en route from the United Arab Emirates, where he paid a brief visit, Pope said that he had not read yet a letter sent to him by Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro seeking the pontiff's help in opening up dialogue.

The situation deteriorated when Guaidó declared himself interim president and was recognized by a number of countries around the world including the United States, United Kingdom, and Canada.

Canada and the Lima Group of more than a dozen North and South American countries have backed Guaido as the legitimate replacement for Maduro, who followed left-wing populist Hugo Chavez into Venezuela's presidency after Chavez's death in 2013.

On Monday European countries came on board, with Spain, Germany, France, Britain, Sweden, Denmark, Austria, the Netherlands and Lithuania calling for free and fair elections as soon as possible.

Critics have called last year's disputed presidential vote in which Maduro won re-election a sham, and the mainstream opposition boycotted it. He spoke at a military rally designed, in part, to display his support among Venezuela's military leaders.

European Union member states had indicated that if no new elections are announced, they would take action within the next few days, including on the issue of recognition of the country's leadership in accordance with Article 233 of the Venezuelan constitution.

This weekend he plans to oversee a deliberate provocation of the military by ordering in supplies of humanitarian aid.

He accused the military on Monday of planning to divert aid being stockpiled in Colombia, Brazil and an unidentified Caribbean island, in order to distribute it through the socialist government's subsidized food program for its own supporters.

The opposition has also sought to prevent the government from selling gold, believing that it is using the proceeds to try to stay solvent as the sanctions cut off other revenue streams.

His fledgling alternative administration will hold talks in Washington February 14 on responding to "the largest hemispheric humanitarian crisis in modern history".

Colombian Foreign Minister Carlos Holmes Trujillo yesterday condemned any attempts to block aid from entering.

Citgo, the eighth-largest USA refiner and Venezuela's top foreign asset, is in the middle of a tug of war as the United States has made aggressive moves to remove it from Maduro's control and imposed sanctions on OPEC-member Venezuela's oil industry. Self-proclaimed acting interim president Juan Guaido also expressed hope for the Holy See's support in an interview to Italian media.

"Under Maduro's stewardship, oil-dependent Venezuela has plunged into an economic crisis, suffering from hyperinflation and shortages of food and medicine".

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