Venezuela's Maduro writes to pope for help
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Venezuela's Maduro writes to pope for help

Foreign ministry says it would 'review ties' with the EU

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said he has written to the pope asking him to help mediate his country's crisis after a swathe of nations recognised a rival opposition chief as interim leader, with the foreign ministry saying it would review ties with EU states over its support for Guaido.

"I sent a letter to Pope Francis," Maduro told Italy's SkyTG24 television in an interview broadcast on Monday, with opposition leader Juan Guaido gaining more international support.

"I told him that I serve Christ's cause... and in this spirit I asked for his help, in a process of facilitating and strengthening dialogue," said Maduro, who has rejected calls for snap presidential elections.

"I ask the pope to put in his best effort, his will, to help on the path of dialogue. I hope to receive a positive response," he said.

Maduro is supporting plans for a meeting of Latin American and European Union states in "Contact Group" talks in Montevideo on Thursday.

The pope is currently on a visit to the United Arab Emirates and is due to return to Rome on Tuesday.

Under Maduro's stewardship, oil-dependent Venezuela has plunged into an economic crisis, suffering from hyperinflation and shortages of food and medicine.

After several years of opposition efforts to oust Maduro, Guaido declared himself acting president at a rally on January 23.

Who backs whom in Venezuela crisis

World powers are taking sides in the deadly struggle to lead Venezuela, which has pitted some Western states against Russia, China and others.

Inside the country, opposition figurehead Juan Guaido, 35, is vying to lure military commanders to switch their allegiance to him away from President Nicolas Maduro, 56.

Here is a summary of whom the key players are backing, after Guaido on January 23 declared himself acting president in defiance of the leftist Maduro.

MADURO

- Military: Maduro through his allies controls most of Venezuela's main state institutions - most importantly the military.

Senior officers have reaffirmed support for him, though there have been signs of wavering. A senior air force general recognised Guaido as president on February 2.

- China: Venezuela's biggest creditor, with some $20 billion dollars owed, says it opposes "external interference" by those who have recognized Guaido as leader.

- Russia: Venezuela's number two creditor also backs it militarily: In December Moscow sent two bombers and some 100 officers to Caracas for joint exercises. President Vladimir Putin has also accused the US and its allies of "interference" in Venezuela.

- Other allies: Bolivia, Cuba, Iran, Mexico, North Korea, Turkey and Uruguay back Maduro as leader.

GUAIDO

- United States: US President Donald Trump quickly recognised Guaido after he proclaimed himself acting president.

- Regional powers: Latin American countries including Argentina, Brazil and Colombia followed, as did the head of the Organization of American States, Uruguayan Luis Almagro. 

- European powers: Austria, Britain, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain and Sweden recognised Guaido on Monday.

- Australia and Israel are among other countries to recognise him.

- Legislature: Inside Venezuela, Maduro's opponents control just one major state body: the National Assembly, whose powers Maduro's rival National Constituent Assembly seized in 2017.

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