Venezuela's Guaido rightful leader despite assembly vote, Chile says

FILE PHOTO: Venezuela's opposition leader Juan Guaido speaks during an interview with Reuters in Caracas, Venezuela November 24, 2020. REUTERS/Manaure Quintero

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Juan Guaido will still be Venezuela’s legitimate head of state even if he loses his seat as head of the country’s parliament on Sunday, Chile’s foreign minister said on Tuesday, saying the Dec. 6 vote for a new assembly lacked any credibility.

Opposition leader Guaido is recognised by dozens of countries, including the United States and most of the European Union (EU), as the nation’s rightful leader following the disputed 2018 re-election of President Nicolas Maduro.

But his institutional standing rests on his post as head of the national assembly, which he is almost certain to lose from January as Maduro seeks to take control of the opposition-held assembly in a vote that many countries believe will be rigged.

“We assign no legitimacy to the elections next Sunday,” Chile’s Foreign Minister Andres Allamand told reporters during a visit to Brussels, where he met EU lawmakers and diplomats.

“We continue to work under the premise that the legitimate authority that exists in Venezuela is Guaido,” said Allamand, whose country gave protection to another Venezuelan opposition politician, Leopoldo Lopez, in 2019 at its diplomatic residence in Caracas.

Maduro has said he is bound by Venezuela’s constitution to hold the vote on Dec. 6, a date the EU has said is too rushed to allow for international observers and ensure it is free and fair.

Like the United States, most of Latin American and the EU want a new presidential election to reverse Venezuela’s spiral into authoritarian rule and economic collapse.

Allamand called on European, North American and Latin American governments who have led different diplomatic initiatives to come together, denounce Sunday’s vote results and find a path to free presidential elections in Venezuela.

Some 4.5 million refugees and migrants have fled Venezuela since 2015, according to official figures, but the real figure is higher, the United Nations has said.

Reporting by Robin Emmott; Editing by Alex Richardson