Venezuela: Guaido extends olive branch to China

Venezuela: Guaido extends olive branch to China

Agency News

Beijing, Feb 2 : Venezuela’s self-declared interim president Juan Guaido says he wants a “productive and mutually beneficial” relationship with China and is ready to engage Chinese officials in dialogues “as soon as possible”.

In an exclusive interview with the South China Morning Post on Friday, Guaido sought to extend an olive branch to China, which has refused to join the US, European Union and most Latin American nations in recognising his self-proclaimed interim presidency to succeed Nicolas Maduro.

Guaido said China would continue to play a role in Venezuela’s economic development, adding that Beijing’s deals with Maduro’s government would remain in force so long as they are entered into in adherence to “due process”.

“China is a crucial global player, and we want to establish a productive and mutually beneficial relationship,” he said in an email interview.

“China’s support will be very important in boosting our country’s economy and future development,” added Guaido, 35, the leader of the opposition-controlled National Assembly.

China, along with Russia, has remained firm in supporting Maduro, even as international recognition of him as the legitimate Venezuelan ruler has fallen apart over the past week.

Following a move by US President Donald Trump, the European Parliament on Thursday recognised Guaido as de facto head of state, heightening international pressure on the OPEC member’s socialist president, Maduro.

EU governments, divided over whether to recognise Guaido, also agreed to lead an international crisis group with South American nations to seek new elections, setting a 90-day time limit, and threatening further economic sanctions.

“Maduro is increasingly isolated and is largely acting alone,” Guaido said. “China has witnessed at first hand the plundering of our state resources by Maduro’s government. Its development projects in Venezuela have been equally affected and falling due to governmental corruption and debt default.”

On whether he plans to allow Venezuela to be part of China’s “Belt and Road” initiative, Guaido said he would improve the relationship with Beijing to stimulate the Venezuelan economy, which has been plagued by hyperinflation and a collapse of investors’ confidence.

“In Latin America and the Caribbean, China continues to promote trade within the framework of the Belt and Road Initiative,” he said. “This initiative gives China a natural space to foster development across the region.”

“There is a lot of work to do in this regard,” he wrote. “Our government will act with strict adherence to the laws and its international duties. We are committed to restoring the rule of law to recover the trust of our investors. All agreements that have been signed with China following the law will be respected. If previous agreements were signed by adhering to the due process of approval by the National Assembly, my government will accept and honour them.”

A Chinese foreign ministry spokesman, Geng Shuang, said on Friday that China’s deals with Venezuela should not be affected “no matter how circumstances change”. When asked at a press conference if Beijing had contacted Guaido, Geng said China has been in touch with “all sides” in different ways.

China has loaned US$50 billion to Caracas over the last decade, which the South American nation has been repaying in oil shipments.

The US is threatening new sanctions on top of years of existing ones as Venezuela’s oil output has dropped to near 70-year lows.(UNI)