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Blinken commits to democratic transition in Venezuela in call with Juan Guaidó

The Hill logo The Hill 3/3/2021 Laura Kelly
Tony Blinken wearing a suit and tie talking on a cell phone: Blinken commits to democratic transition in Venezuela in call with Juan Guaidó © Getty Images Blinken commits to democratic transition in Venezuela in call with Juan Guaidó

Secretary of State Antony Blinken held his first call with the embattled interim President of Venezuela Juan Guaidó on Tuesday, where he said the U.S. is working with allies to push for a democratic transition in the country and provide humanitarian assistance.

State Department spokesperson Ned Price said the secretary "described our efforts to work with likeminded allies, including the European Union, Lima Group, Organization of American States, and International Contact Group, to increase multilateral pressure and press for a peaceful democratic transition."

The call reinforces the Biden administration's decision to continue recognizing Guaidó as the interim president, despite the European Union announcing in January it was downgrading the Venezuelan opposition leader's status to "privileged interlocutor."

Guaidó's status stems from the 2015 Venezuelan elections when the opposition gained control of the legislature over the ruling party of President Nicolás Maduro.

Maduro rejected the results and maintained his grip on power with the support of the military. In 2018, he won another six-year term in national elections that were decried by critics as fraudulent, and rejected by most of the international community, including the U.S., European Union and neighboring countries in Latin America.

Blinken, during his confirmation hearing in January, called Maduro "a brutal dictator."

Against the backdrop of political turmoil in Venezuela is an ongoing economic crisis that has caused a humanitarian disaster where the United Nations estimates that 7 million people are in need of assistance.

Blinken committed in his call with Guaidó "to continued U.S. support" to ease suffering.

The call between the secretary and the internationally recognized Venezuelan leader comes following a call from Republican and Democratic House lawmakers urging the Biden administration to appoint a U.S. special envoy to Venezuela.

A State Department spokesperson, responding to a request for comment by The Hill, said, "At this time, we do not have any personnel moves to preview," but added that the department will coordinate closely with Congress on addressing the crisis in Venezuela.

"The overriding goal of the United States is to support a peaceful democratic transition in Venezuela, through free and fair presidential and parliamentary elections, and to help the Venezuelan people rebuild their lives and their country," the spokesperson said. "President Biden understands the pain that the current crisis in Venezuela is inflicting on Venezuelans and their families."

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