Colombia's Santos says he will not recognize Venezuelan vote

Colombia's President Juan Manuel Santos attends the World Economic Forum (WEF) annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland January 24, 2018 REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

BOGOTA (Reuters) - Colombia will not recognize the validity or the result of forthcoming presidential elections in neighboring Venezuela, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos said on Thursday, adding he expected other countries would share the view that the vote is illegitimate.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro is standing for re-election in the vote, which authorities announced this week would be held by April 30, and the ruling Socialists hope to prevail over a squabbling opposition despite an economic crisis and foreign sanctions.

“My position is the same as expressed by the Lima Group,” Santos told journalists on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, referring to a regional group that said this week the vote would lack legitimacy.

“Until there are sufficient guarantees for a transparent elections, I don’t think anyone will recognize the results of elections in Venezuela,” Santos said in comments broadcast on Colombia’s Caracol radio. “They don’t have any validity.”

The Lima Group, whose members include Brazil, Argentina, Canada, Peru, Mexico and Colombia, has backed a peaceful solution to Venezuela’s crisis, negotiated between Maduro’s ruling party and the opposition.

Opposition groups in Venezuela have accused Maduro of steering the country into a crippling economic crisis, turning Venezuela into a dictatorship and skewing the election system to perpetuate power. Government officials respond they are fighting a U.S.-led right-wing conspiracy bent on ending socialism in Latin America, hobbling Venezuela’s economy and stealing its oil wealth.

Reporting by Luis Jaime Acosta; Writing by Julia Symmes Cobb; Editing by Frances Kerry