Jan. 26 (UPI) — U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told the U.N. Security Council Saturday it has a choice to support a transitional government in Venezuela or give into “mayhem.”
Pompeo urged the council to recognize National Assembly chief and opposition leader Juan Guaido, who declared himself interim president Wednesday, instead of President Nicolas Maduro, The Washington Post reported.
“Either you stand with the forces of freedom, or you’re in league with Maduro and his mayhem,” Pompeo said at an emergency meeting of the 15-member U.N. Security Council Saturday called by the United States.
Maduro was sworn in earlier this month amid protests after allegations of rigging the vote. The election also attracted controversy over the jailing of opposition candidates. The National Assembly has argued for vacating the presidency and filling the position on an interim basis with the head of the legislative body.
Pompeo’s request for the U.N. Security Council to make a choice between supporting a transitional government or Maduro sparked tension with the Russian ambassador to the United Nations.
“If anything represents a threat to peace and security, it is the shameless and aggressive actions of the United States and their allies to oust a legitimately elected president of Venezuela,” Russian ambassador Vasily Nebenzya said, accusing the U.S. of an “attempt to engineer a coup d’etat.”
Venezuelan armed groups loyal to Maduro have clashed with protesters supporting Guaido, leaving at least 20 people dead and many wounded, the U.N. human rights office said Friday.
Maduro has a Saturday afternoon deadline for U.S. diplomats to leave his country, but the U.S. State Department has left behind essential diplomats and said Maduro’s orders as a “former president” have no authority. The U.S. has also recognized Guaido as the country’s interm president.
Pompeo warned the Maduro government not to harm the diplomats.
“I want to be 100 percent clear — President Trump and I fully expect that our diplomats will continue to receive protections provided under the Vienna Convention,” he said. “Do not test the United States on our resolve to protect our own people.”
The European Union also moved closer Saturday to recognizing Guaido as the country’s ruler, Bloomberg reported. It called for a move “over the next days” toward new elections in Venezuela and entertained the idea of recognizing Guaido as Venezuela’s leader if new elections are not announced.