Monday 4 February 2019 10:09 am

EU countries recognise opposition leader Guaido as president of Venezuela

The UK, France, Spain and Sweden have recognised opposition leader Juan Guaido as the interim president of Venezuela after a deadline for President Nicholas Maduro to call fresh presidential elections expired.

British Foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt wrote on twitter:

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez held a news conference this morning to announce Spanish recognition of Guaido.

He also tweeted: "I recognise @jguaido as interim president of Venezuela with a clear horizon: calling free, democratic presidential elections with guarantees and no exclusions. I will not take a step back. For freedom, democracy and concord in #Venezuela."

The EU countries had given left wing leader Maduro until Sunday to announce fresh elections.

The US, Canada and Australia have all previously recognised Guaido as president.

Internationally, supporters of Maduro include China, Russia and Iran.

Maduro rejected the EU deadline, saying: "We don't accept ultimatums from anyone. It's like if I told the European Union: 'I give you seven days to recognise the Republic of Catalonia, and if you don't, we are going to take measures.'

"No, international politics can't be based on ultimatums. That was the era of empires and colonies."

Maduro has been president of the oil-rich South American country since 2013.

He was a close ally of charismatic former left wing president Hugo Chavez who died in 2013.

Venezuela has become increasingly chaotic in recent years, with food shortages, a refugee crisis and endemic corruption.