Vladimir Putin backs Nicolas Maduro with military contractors to Venezuela

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France, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom announced Monday that they were recognizing opposition leader Juan Guaido as Venezuela's interim president after an eight-day deadline for Maduro to call elections had not been met. No mention was made of the current situation: millions of Venezuelans don't have enough to eat, there are massive shortages of basic medicines and the country's inflation rate is slated to rise to 10 million per cent this year.

"We know that the people of Venezuela are facing tremendous hardship and they need our help, as do the countries that have taken in those fleeing violence", Trudeau said. Sweden, Denmark, Austria, the Netherlands, Lithuania, Finland, Estonia, Latvia, the Czech Republic, Luxembourg, Poland and Portugal also lined up behind Guaido, who last month declared himself interim president with the support of the United States and many South American nations.

Freeland said Guaido's interim authority is meant to be used exclusively to order free and fair elections to return Venezuela to democracy.

"Elections that are free, democratic, with guarantees and without exclusions, in which Venezuelans decide, with their voice and vote, their future, without fear, pressure or threats".

Maduro blames Washington and other Western nations for sabotaging Venezuela's economy, including through sanctions.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian pushed back Monday on the interference charge.

"If someday there'll be a coup; if there'll be a U.S. intervention of Venezuela, then, Senior Pedro Sanchez, your hands will be stained in blood forever and history will remember you as a puppet in service of Donald Trump's policy of interference", President Maduro said in an address, broadcast live on his Twitter page.

Venezuela's pro-democracy movement has welcomed the decision by Canada and its allies to urge its country's military to switch allegiance and support opposition leader Juan Guaido as the true leader of their country.

Around 1 million people resident in Venezuela also possess a European passport, Portuguese Foreign Minister Augusto Santos Silva told a news conference in Lisbon.

Maduro's government, overseeing an economic collapse that has prompted 3 million Venezuelans to flee the country, lashed out at the European Union nations, saying their move would affect relations with Caracas.

"I don't accept ultimatums from anybody", Maduro told Spanish TV channel La Sexta.

Venezuela has the largest reserves in the world, but production has plunged under Mr Maduro's tenure.

Maduro then continued his accusations against the Trump administration, which he claims is preparing a coup and that "the military option is on [President] Donald Trump's table".

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland branded the Maduro government a dictatorship that has shown an inexcusable disregard for the rule of law and human rights.

In an interview that aired Monday with Italy's Sky TG24 he said that he had written Pope Francis asking for help in fostering dialogue with the opposition. Maduro said in an interview with Italy's Sky TG24 that he hopes the letter is in route or has reached the Vatican.

Spain's Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez steps out of the Moncloa Palace in Madrid, Spain, September 12, 2018.

However, he supported plans for a meeting of Latin American and European Union states in a "Contact Group" meeting in Montevideo next Thursday. It aims to facilitate dialogue and is due to hold its first meeting in Uruguay on Thursday.

Freeland smiled and remarked that protesting was a right guaranteed by the constitution in Canada, one that "I am sad to say political protesters in Venezuela do not (have)".

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