The prime minister of Spain on Saturday announced his government would officially recognize the legitimacy of the speaker of Venezuela's national assembly who recently proclaimed himself president of the South American nation unless the current government called a new election within the next eight days.
Sources in the Spanish foreign ministry said that Pedro Sanchez would later be joined by other European leaders throughout the day in threatening to recognize opposition leader Juan Guaido as president of Venezuela instead of Nicolas Maduro, who was sworn in on Jan. 11 following his controversial re-election.
"Spain gives Nicolas Maduro eight days to call an election and if it doesn't occur, we will recognize Juan Guaido as president," Sanchez said during a press conference in Madrid.
Sanchez thus became the first of the European Union's 28 heads of government to position himself before the bloc's adoption of a common stance on the ongoing legitimacy crisis in Venezuela.
He was soon followed by French President Emmanuel Macron, who reiterated the eight-day ultimatum in a post on Twitter.
"The Venezuelan people need to be able to freely decide their future," Macron wrote. "Without announcing elections in 8 days, we could recognize Guaido as "president in charge" of Venezuela to implement said political process. We are working together with our European allies."
On Friday, the Spanish government had already proposed that the EU set an early deadline for Maduro to call for free elections in Venezuela.
Sanchez said that if Maduro were to reject this demand, the EU should recognize Guaido as interim president.
After learning of the Spanish proposal, Maduro accused Sanchez of "repeating the script" of Spain's former right-wing Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar (1996-2004), who immediately supported the failed coup against then-President Hugo Chavez in 2002.
On Tuesday, Guaido proclaimed himself interim president of the country, citing articles 233, 333 and 350 of the 1999 constitution as justification.
Maduro's opponents claim that he has "usurped" his position by being sworn into the office following a snap presidential election that he won with 67.8 percent of the vote and the main opposition parties boycotted by calling for active abstention.
In response to the crisis, United States President Donald Trump – as well as the governments of Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Guatemala, Honduras, Panama, Paraguay and Peru – have announced that they recognize Guaido as Venezuela's interim president.
The Chinese, Bolivian, Cuban, Iranian, Turkish and Russian governments, on the other hand, have expressed their support for Maduro and refused to accept Guaido's legitimacy.