Biden will recognize Guaido as Venezuela's leader, top diplomat says

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WASHINGTON, Jan 19 (Reuters) - U.S. President-elect Joe Biden's administration will continue to recognize Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido as the South American country's president, Anthony Blinken, Biden's nominee for secretary of state, said on Tuesday.

Blinken told members of the U.S. Senate that Biden would seek to "more effectively target" sanctions on the country, which aim to oust President Nicolas Maduro - who retains control of the country. Blinken said the new administration would look at more humanitarian assistance to the country.

The United States, along with dozens of other countries, recognized Guaido - the leader of Venezuela's opposition-held National Assembly - as the country's president in January 2019, arguing Maduro's 2018 re-election was rigged.

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"We need an effective policy that can restore Venezuela to democracy, starting with free and fair elections," Blinken said.

Guaido's push to oust Maduro - who has overseen a collapse in the once-prosperous OPEC nation's economy and stands accused of corruption and human rights violations - has stalled.

Maduro calls Guaido a U.S.-puppet seeking to oust him in a coup. His allies have expressed a desire to engage in negotiations with the Biden administration after years of tensions and escalating U.S. sanctions.

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Reporting by Humeyra Pamuk and Patricia Zengerle in Washington Writing by Luc Cohen; Editing by Leslie Adler

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