Greece Finds Itself the Odd Man Out on Venezuela



Greek Premier Alexis Tsipras greeting Venezuelan leader Nicolas Maduro in 2013. File photo

The Greek government refused to follow the lead of all major European countries, and most of the Western world, on Monday in declining to recognize opposition leader Juan Guaido as interim president of Venezuela.

Germany, France, the UK, Spain and other smaller EU nations have given their official backing to Guaido, as have the United States and Canada.

The latest official announcement on Venezuela from the Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs was dated on January 31. The statement refuses to condemn the regime of Nicolas Madouro, and instead calls for “political dialogue” to avert a possible civil war in the country.

The widely-recognized interim president expressed his concern in late January about the Greek government’s stance regarding his country.

Guaido called on Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras and members of his ruling left-wing SYRIZA party to visit Venezuela and see conditions for themselves in its hospitals and schools.

Guaido stated, “ I call on the Greek prime minister and any member of his party to come to Venezuela as soon as possible… Tomorrow, or the day after tomorrow if he wants to.

“And go together in hospitals, pharmacies, or schools in Venezuela. Or stay a week to live with Venezuela’s minimum wage worker and see what he thinks about Maduro’s regime”, the leader added.

Last week, Greek-American Republican congressman Gus Bilirakis urged Tsipras “to put Greece at the forefront of Europe’s efforts to help restore democracy in Venezuela.” The congressman noted that “any perception that Athens supports the Maduro regime undermines Greece’s reputation in both US and Latin America.”

Admirer of Chavez

Leftist MP Alexis Tsipras was long an admirer of the socialist model of Maduro’s predecessor Hugo Chavez.

“[Tsipras] once mentioned Venezuela as an anti-capitalist model and his aides say one of his heroes is Chavez, with whom he shares a birthday (July 28),” the respected Brussels-based website Politico wrote in 2017.

As opposition leader, Tsipras was on the lookout for cheap Venezuelan oil and diplomatic support in the case of a Greek exit from the eurozone, which would have been en economic catastrophe.

EU recognizes Guaido

Germany became the latest EU country to give its official backing to Guaido, lending its support on Monday. Chancellor Angela Merkel said in a news conference “we recognize Juan Guaido as interim president of Venezuela, tasked with starting the political transition and leading the country to free, transparent and credible elections.”

Spain had earlier become the first leading EU country to recognize Guaido as interim president.

UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt soon followed suit, announcing on Twitter that Britain, “alongside European allies, now recognizes [Juan Guaido] as interim constitutional President until credible elections can be held.”

Within minutes of each other, Denmark, Sweden and Austria joined the steadily-growing list.

French President Emmanuel Macron also took to Twitter to throw his country’s support behind Guaido. His foreign minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian, had earlier told French radio that Guaido had the right to call snap elections.

Meanwhile Guaido, whose legitimacy had already been recognized by the US, Canada, Australia and several Latin American countries, said he would soon lobby the EU for badly-needed humanitarian and economic aid.