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"We are in permanent contact with the governments of Spain, France, the United Kingdom and Germany".

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who is on a two-day visit to Japan, said at a news conference that "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".

Defying European pressure, Maduro shrugged off an ultimatum by EU states demanding early elections.

The European countries urged Guaido to hold free and fair elections as soon as possible.

"I sent a letter to Pope Francis", Maduro told Italy's SkyTG24 television in an interview broadcast on Monday, with opposition leader Juan Guaido gaining more global support.

Several countries, including the United States, Lima Group members (excluding Mexico), Australia, Albania, Georgia and Israel, as well as the Organization of American States, recognized him as president. "Faced with President Maduro's refusal to organize presidential elections which would clarify, calm the situation in Venezuela. we consider that Mr. Guaido has the capacity and legitimacy to organize these elections".

Palacek, like numerous protesters, said he doesn't blame Maduro or his predecessor Hugo Chavez for the humanitarian crisis in Venezuela.

Critics of the hard-left Socialist Maduro - who is accused of running the OPEC nation of 30 million people like a dictatorship and wrecking its economy - blame the Venezuelan government's mismanagement for the lack of food and medical supplies.

The US and other countries have already pledged humanitarian aid for Guaido's administration, though it remains to be seen where and how it can enter the country without the military's support.

Guaido appealed to the military's "conscience" to let the aid reach those most in need.

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The UK's decision to recognise Guaido, 35, as interim leader follows similar declarations by other European Union leaders, including Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron. "With ministers Néstor Ruiz Reverol and Aristóbulo Istúriz [minister of Education and vice president for social affairs], we said goodbye to the crew".

Military: Maduro through his allies controls most of Venezuela's main state institutions - most importantly the military.

The PM joined forces with European Union leaders to issue the endorsement as beleaguered president Nicolas Maduro rejected demands to hold fresh elections.

"I don't accept ultimatums from anybody", Maduro told Spanish TV channel La Sexta.

"From today, we will spare no effort in helping all Venezuelans achieve freedom, prosperity and harmony", Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said as he announced Madrid had recognised Guaido, the head of Venezuela's National Assembly who declared himself last month to be the oil-rich South American country's interim ruler.

Maduro began a new term in office last month after disputed 2018 elections whose results were rejected as invalid by the opposition.

At the beginning of a week of intense diplomacy, Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau meanwhile pledged $40 million in humanitarian aid for Venezuelans as he hosted a meeting of the Lima Group of Latin American countries and Canada. "That is why it is time to increase pressure", Guaido said through an interpreter, his enlarged image hovering over the gathering on a movie-theatre-sized screen.

"The global community's goal should be to help (Venezuela), without destructive meddling from beyond its borders", Alexander Shchetinin, head of the Latin America department at Russia's Foreign Ministry, told Interfax.

Maduro has rejected all offers of aid, dismissing it as the thin edge of a wedge of United States military involvement.