Spain draws line under diplomatic spat with Venezuela over vote recount
Foreign Ministry statement recognizes Maduro as winner of country’s controversial presidential election
EU still has not decided whether it will formally acknowledge Sunday’s race results
A diplomatic standoff between Spain and Venezuela over demands that a recount of Sunday’s presidential vote be held appears to have ended with the Foreign Affairs Ministry in Madrid issuing a statement saying that it would “respect” the election results.
The statement came after Caracas had recalled its ambassador from Madrid for consultations following remarks made by Spanish Foreign Minister José Manuel García-Margallo on Monday that Venezuela must hold a vote recount.
Opposition candidate Henrique Capriles, who, according to official figures, lost the election by less than two percent, is demanding a recount after claiming that there were more than 3,200 voting irregularities during the process.
García-Margallo’s comments ignited a sharp response from President-elect Nicolás Maduro who said in a televised address that Spain should concern itself with solving its high unemployment problem, while reminding Madrid that Spain still has investments in Venezuela, despite many companies having pulled out under during the rule of President Hugo Chávez.
The statement issued by the Spanish Foreign Ministry’s Office of Diplomacy Information (OID) called the matter a “misunderstanding.”
Spain apparently jumped ahead of the rest of the European Union in recognizing victory for Maduro, Chávez’s designated successor who has been serving as interim leader since the latter’s death on March 5. EU officials have said that decision is still on hold.
“We are watching closely developments in Venezuela,” said Maja Kocijancic, spokeswoman for the EU high commissioner for foreign affairs and security, Catherine Ashton.
“We are concerned about the growing polarization we are seeing in the country. In particular, we deplore the loss of lives in recent days,” Kocijancic told Europa Press. “We are asking both sides to initiate a peaceful dialogue and reject violence.”
Venezuela’s top prosecutor said Tuesday that seven people were killed and more than 60 have been seriously injured in post-election violence.
After he heard about Spain’s change of tune, Maduro praised the Madrid government. “Very good, Spanish government, you can count on our working friendship. We are one people and we are going to love and respect one another,” the president-elect said during an inauguration of a new medical clinic in Caracas.
At a news conference with foreign journalists, candidate Capriles, who called on the international community to pressure election authorities to hold a recount, said the Spanish government should not be “intimidated or pressured” by Maduro.
“Today he is in power, but tomorrow he won’t be there,” Capriles said.
The United States has not decided whether to recognize Maduro as president of Venezuela, pending clarification of the dispute in the South American nation.
Secretary of State John Kerry told lawmakers Wednesday that “evaluation has to be made and I haven't made it.”
"We think there ought to be a recount," Kerry said before the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee.