Most Latin American nations recognized Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido as interim president on Wednesday, leaving Nicolas Maduro ever more isolated as he faces unrest at home and threats from the United States.
Longstanding leftist allies Bolivia, Cuba, Nicaragua and El Salvador were the only countries in the region to explicitly voice support for Maduro as Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Guatemala, Honduras, Panama, Paraguay and Peru backed Guaido.
The United States and Canada also recognized Guaido - the 35-year-old leader of Venezuela’s opposition-dominated National Assembly - as Venezuela’s legitimate ruler.
However, Mexico, once a vocal member of the Lima Group regional bloc created to pressure Maduro to enact democratic reforms, struck a discordant note under President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, saying it would not take sides and branding support for Guaido a violation of sovereignty.
Likewise Uruguay, which teamed up with Mexico, said it was following events closely, and called on all sides involved, inside and outside Venezuela, to reduce tensions and avoid an escalation of violence that can only worsen the situation.
In abidance with international law, Mexico and Uruguay urge all sides to find a peaceful and democratic solution to the complex scenario faced by Venezuela. To achieve this, both countries propose a new negotiation process, inclusive and credible, with full respect for the rule of the law and human rights.
The governments of Uruguay and Mexico, in sintony with statements from the United Nations and the European Union, as well as the governments of Spain and Portugal, express their full support, commitment and willingness to work jointly in favor of stability, welfare and peace of the Venezuela people”.
The telegenic Guaido declared himself Venezuela’s temporary president on Wednesday at a rally that drew hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans. He accused Maduro of usurping power and promised to create a transitional government.
The diplomatic support for Guaido was a striking move in a region where countries tend to refrain from criticizing each other despite their political differences, underscoring how rattled Venezuela’s neighbors have become by its deteriorating situation.
Criticism of Maduro has grown in recent years as his government has sidelined the National Assembly, held widely-questioned elections and overseen an economic crisis that has forced millions of Venezuelans to flee, mostly to other South American countries.
At the same time, right-leaning governments have risen to power in places where Maduro once had allies. Such are the cases of Argentina and Brazil's Jair Bolsonaro.
“Argentina will support all efforts toward rebuilding democracy in Venezuela and reestablishing conditions of life worthy of all its citizens,” Argentine President Mauricio Macri said on Twitter on Wednesday.
Macri took office in 2015, replacing Maduro’s former ally Cristina Fernandez.
Maduro called on the military to stay united and severed diplomatic relations with Washington, which he accused of trying to orchestrate a coup with help from its allies in the region.
U.S. President Donald Trump reiterated that “all options are on the table” and his administration signaled potential new sanctions against Venezuela’s vital oil sector.