CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuela’s opposition hopes to maintain bipartisan support from politicians in the United States as President-elect Joe Biden prepares to take office in January, opposition leader Juan Guaido said in an interview on Tuesday.
The Trump administration in 2019 led an international push to recognize Guaido as Venezuela’s legitimate leader as part of a plan to force the ouster of President Nicolas Maduro amid an economic crisis and a mass migration.
The opposition now hopes to maintain the backing of both Republicans and Democrats as it seeks to continue pressuring Maduro, who has retained the support of Venezuela’s military despite a raft of aggressive U.S. sanctions. Biden is due to take office on Jan. 20.
“Any president in the world today would want to get closer to a solution to the crisis in Venezuela,” Guaido said in an interview in his home. “We want to have bipartisan support. It’s a challenge for us, not for the new administration ... to show a path toward a viable solution.”
Biden aides have said he does not plan to change Washington’s approach toward Maduro. The United States last year created a broad sanctions program that limits Venezuela’s oil exports and blocks U.S. citizens from doing business with his government.
But Biden will likely face pressure to ease some measures such as restrictions on Venezuela’s gasoline imports amid crippling fuel shortages.
Maduro dismisses Guaido as a puppet of the United States and denounced the sanctions campaign as an illegal and unilateral effort to force him from power.
Venezuela’s information ministry did not immediately reply to a request for comment.
The country on Dec. 6 holds a congressional election that Guaido and allied opposition leaders are boycotting, saying it is rigged in favor of the ruling Socialist Party.
Guaido, who is the head of Congress until early January, is organizing a popular consultation to be held between Dec. 5 and Dec. 12 that will ask citizens if they want Maduro to resign, if they reject the congressional vote as fraudulent, and if they support international efforts to restore democracy.
The consultation will be both physical and digital to ensure social distancing and to allow for participation of some 5 million Venezuelans who have emigrated to escape the crisis.
Guaido said he and other opposition legislators will not recognize the results of parliamentary vote and will consider themselves legislators under the principal of “constitutional continuity,” which holds that they will remain in their posts because no legitimate election is being held to replace them.
This approach has faced criticism from within the opposition that it will create a “virtual parliament” that competes with the congress recognized by the Socialist Party.
Guaido in response said that virtual meetings are already routine both because of the pandemic and because many opposition legislators have been forced into exile.
“In 2020, everything is virtual,” he said. “And in Venezuela (this is true) for other reasons, because of the (high) costs, because of the persecution.”
Reporting by Brian Ellsworth and Vivian Sequera in Caracas; Editing by Matthew Lewis
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