The European Parliament recognized Venezuela’s self-declared interim president Juan Guaido

BRUSSELS, Jan 31:  The European Parliament recognized Venezuela’s self-declared interim president Juan Guaido as de facto head of state on Thursday, heightening international pressure on the OPEC member’s socialist President Nicolas Maduro.

MEPs voted 439 in favour to 104 against, with 88 abstentions, at a special session in Brussels to recognise Venezuelan congress head Guaidó as interim leader. In a statement the parliament urged the bloc’s 28 governments to follow suit and declare Guaidó “the only legitimate interim president” until there were “new free, transparent and credible presidential elections”.

As Venezuela has sunk into economic and political crisis that has brought mass emigration and hyperinflation, the EU imposed an arms embargo and sanctions on officials to decry what it views as rights violations and the rupture of democracy.

On Thursday, the Brussels-based International Federation of Journalists said seven foreign journalists were detained in Venezuela, including French and Spanish reporters.

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini called for their release. Foreign ministers were due to discuss the crisis in Venezuela at a two-day meeting in Bucharest from Thursday.

British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, who spoke to Guaido by telephone on Wednesday, said the bloc should consider more asset freezes and travel bans on Venezuelan officials.

“Targeted sanctions against the kleptocrats who have enriched themselves on the back of the rest of the population who are very poor, that is something I think can be effective,” Hunt said in a Foreign and Commonwealth Office statement.

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