February 6, 2019 / 6:55 PM / 7 months ago

Slovakia declines to back Venezuela's Guaido as Maduro faces rising pressure

Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido speaks during a meeting with representatives of FEDEAGRO, the Confederation of Associations of Agricultural Producers of Venezuela, in Caracas, Venezuela February 6, 2019. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins

BRATISLAVA (Reuters) - Slovakia declined to recognize opposition leader Juan Guaido as Venezuela’s legitimate head of state on Wednesday, joining Italy in breaking the coordinated action of European Union nations and the United States.

About 20 European Union nations including Britain, Germany, France and Spain have aligned with the United States in recognizing Guaido’s leadership and pressuring socialist President Nicolas Maduro to call a new election.

Slovakia’s foreign ministry said last week the country saw Guaido, the head of Venezuela’s National Assembly, as the only legitimate representative of its people and called for a new election.

But Foreign Minister Miroslav Lajcak failed to get backing for that position from two out of three coalition parties at Wednesday’s government meeting.

Leader of the ruling leftist Smer party, Robert Fico, said he saw the situation in Venezuela was an effort to destroy the existing government and install a puppet as head of state.

“Slovakia should act within the principles of international law,” Fico said.

Junior coalition member the Slovak National Party (SNS) also said Slovakia should stay neutral while the ethnic Hungarian Most-Hid party backed the EU position.

Italy on Monday blocked a joint EU position to recognize Guaido as interim president, diplomatic sources said.

Reporting By Tatiana Jancarikova, Editing by Angus MacSwan

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