Australia has recognised Juan Guaidó as interim president of Venezuela, joining the United States, Canada and Venezuela’s South American neighbours in rejecting incumbent Nicolás Maduro.
The statement from Australian foreign affairs minister, Marise Payne, follows a threat from European leaders on Sunday to recognise Guaidó unless Maduro calls an election in the next eight days. The US secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, also urged countries to “pick a side” in the crisis.
Payne said on Monday that Australia “recognises and supports the president of the national assembly, Juan Guaidó, in assuming the position of interim president, in accordance with the Venezuelan constitution and until elections are held”.
“Australia calls for a transition to democracy in Venezuela as soon as possible.”
Payne noted that Australia had supported the Lima Group’s early call for Maduro to refrain from assuming the presidency on 10 January.
“We now urge all parties to work constructively towards a peaceful resolution of the situation, including a return to democracy, respect for the rule of law and upholding of human rights of the Venezuelan people.”
Maduro, who inherited Hugo Chávez’s Bolivarian revolution after his 2013 death, was re-elected in disputed elections last May.
He has so far rejected calls to hold fresh elections and accused Guaidó of violating “the constitution and every law”.
Maduro retains the support of Russia, China, Cuba, Bolivia and Turkey and still has the backing of the military, although his defence attache to the Venezuelan embassy in Washington defected to Guaidó on Saturday.
In one of his first interviews since his surprise declaration as the interim president on Wednesday, Juan Guaidó told the Guardian he was set on “getting the job done” to force Maduro from power and end a humanitarian emergency which has fuelled the largest exodus in modern Latin American history.
Oil-rich Venezuela is wracked with hyperinflation, rendering the bolivar currency practically worthless. Shortages in food staples and basic medicines are rampant and crime is widespread. More than 3 million Venezuelans have fled, causing consternation across the continent.
The Australian opposition leader, Bill Shorten, and Labor’s foreign affairs spokeswoman, Penny Wong, supported the government’s decision, citing the fact that the US, Britain, France, Germany and Venezuela’s South American neighbours had also rejected Maduro.
“In the Senate last year, Labor supported the joint statement on Venezuela issued in May at the G20 foreign ministers meeting that declared the Venezuelan elections to be illegitimate and confirmation of the breakdown of democratic institutions in Venezuela,” they said in a statement.
“Labor urges all parties to work constructively towards a peaceful resolution of the Venezuelan political crisis, including a return to democracy, respect for the rule of law and upholding of human rights of the Venezuelan people.”