Juan Guaido. Photograph:( Reuters )
'It seems to me, (that) what Maduro's government has to understand is that the pressure is just beginning and it is the moment to increase it,' Carlos Vecchio said in an interview with EFE.
The man representing Venezuelan self-proclaimed acting president Juan Guaido in the United States is urging Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez to convince his European Union partners to impose tougher sanctions on incumbent Nicolas Maduro.
"It seems to me, (that) what Maduro's government has to understand is that the pressure is just beginning and it is the moment to increase it," Carlos Vecchio said in an interview with EFE.
The EU should take steps to ensure that Maduro's allies cannot use European financial institutions to hide the money they are "stealing" from oil-rich Venezuela, Vecchio said.
Spain, he said, should lead that effort because the Iberian nation has traditionally served as a link between Latin America and Europe, which gives Madrid moral authority to argue for a more punitive stance toward Maduro by the EU, 24 of whose 28 member-states have recognized Guaido.
"My appeal is to Pedro Sanchez for him, as the head of government in Spain ... to push inside the framework of the EU for the sanctions that cut off the Maduro regime and which will force him to find a way out of the crisis," Vecchio said.
Sanchez formally recognized Guaido as Venezuela's acting president on Feb. 4 and advocated the scheduling of "competitive free and fair elections" as soon as possible.
At the same time, Spain has taken part in the International Contact Group for Venezuela, an EU-led initiative comprising Latin American and European countries with a mission "to help create the conditions for a political process that would lead to free and fair presidential elections."
Asked about that EU bid to resolve the crisis, Vecchio was dismissive.
"My message to the contact group is that there is not much to discuss, only when Maduro leaves power," Guaido's envoy said.
Even so, Vecchio thinks that Spain can play an "important role" by providing a haven for Venezuelan officials who want to abandon the Maduro administration, a possibility discussed by the Spanish and US governments.
"I believe that the regime is collapsing, everyone knows that Maduro is the past. Maduro is not going anywhere and many people are negotiating secretly because they know he is going to fall at any moment and everyone is trying to save himself," Vecchio said.
A top official of Guaido's Popular Will party, Vecchio has been living in self-imposed exile in Florida for more than four years. He fled Venezuela to avoid arrest on charges of fomenting violent protests in 2014.
The US government has accredited Vecchio as Venezuela's diplomatic representative.