BRUSSELS: The European Parliament recognised 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.

EU lawmakers voted 429 in favour to 104 against, with 88 abstentions, at a special session in Brussels to recognise Venezuelan congress head Guaido as interim leader. In a statement with the nonbinding vote, the parliament urged the bloc’s 28 governments to follow suit and consider Guaido “the only legitimate interim president” until there were “new free, transparent and credible presidential elections”. Though frequently accusing Maduro of stifling democracy, the EU is nervous at the precedent of a self-declaration, so has been reluctant to follow the US and most Latin American nations with immediate recognition of Guaido.

Britain, France, Germany and Spain said on Saturday, however, that they would recognise Guaido unless Maduro called elections within eight days. But the EU has a whole has not set a time limit in its call for a new presidential vote. “Those who are demonstrating today in the streets of Venezuela are not Europeans, but they fight for the same values for which we fight,” Spanish centre-right EU lawmaker Esteban Gonzalez Pons said in a statement. Maduro has dismissed the demands as an unacceptable ultimatum from “the corrupt elite of spent colonial powers”.

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.

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