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Salvini calls Guaido after meeting Venezuela delegation

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Salvini calls Guaido after meeting Venezuela delegation
Members of a Venezuelan delegation, received by Italy’s Interior Minister and deputy PM, pose with Venezuela's national flag outside the Palazzo del Viminale in Rome. Photo: Tiziana Fabi/AFP
10:11 CET+01:00
Italy's coalition government remains divided over the crisis in Venezuela, making it one of the few EU countries not to have backed opposition leader Juan Guaido.

Italy's far-right Interior Minister Matteo Salvini spoke by phone with Guaido yesterday after meeting with an opposition delegation sent from the crisis-hit Latin American nation, a spokesman said. 

Salvini, who is also deputy prime minister, had a "friendly" conversation with Guaido in which he expressed his "total support" for free elections, later saying they should happen "as soon as possible".

Guaido, who heads Venezuela's opposition-controlled National Assembly, last month declared himself interim president, sparking a standoff with President Nicolas Maduro.

He has so far been recognised as Venezuela's interim president by some 50 countries, although Italy is one of the few EU states yet to do so. 

READ ALSO: EU nations put Venezuela's Maduro on notice

During the conversation, Salvini acknowledged Italy's populist government was still divided over the matter even though Rome never recognised Maduro's reelection in May 2018 following a vote which was disputed by the opposition and abroad.

Salvini agreed to see the Venezuelan delegation after Guaido wrote to him requesting that they present him with details of the "action plan to relaunch democracy in Venezuela through free and fair elections".

Juan Guaido's supporters protest outside the Italian embassy in Caracas. Photo: Juan Barreto/AFP

 

"I see it as my duty to welcome a delegation from the Venezuelan parliament which is the only legitimate entity in power at this moment given that the apparent president, Maduro, has never been recognised as such by the 
international community," Salvini said. 

The Venezuelan delegation includes a number of senior National Assembly figures such as Francisco Sucre, who heads the parliamentary foreign affairs committee, and Rodrigo Diamanti, its European representative for humanitarian aid.

Sucre later told journalists that he wanted elections to be held as soon as the various political factions reached an accord.

The delegation also met at the Vatican with a top official who is Venezuelan, Monsignor Edgard Pena.

"At the Vatican we expressed our position very clearly. We think that the Vatican, like the European Union, can guarantee the organisation of transparent elections in Venezuela," Sucre said.

A spokesman said the Vatican was "deeply concerned" about the situation in the South American country and called for finding "a fair and peaceful solution to the crisis... avoiding bloodshed"

In response to a letter for help from Madura, Pope Francis last week had said that any mediation by the Vatican in Venezuela would need the agreement of the two sides.

READ ALSO: 

Juan Guaido's supporters protest outside the Italian embassy in Caracas. Photo: Juan Barreto/AFP

 
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