In a session on the opening day of the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting, Paraguayan President Mario Abdo Benítez said that he would back a new government headed by the leader of the opposition-led Venezuelan National Assembly should the legislative body vote to name him to replace President Nicolas Maduro, recently inaugurated for another six-year term.
“We would recognize Mr (Juan) Guaidó as president,” Benítez stated. “We need to send a clear message. Anything that will help liberate Venezuela has our support.”
Benítez was responding to a question from the floor by Ricardo Hausmann, a Harvard economist who is from Venezuela. To preface his question, Hausmann noted that a majority of the Lima Group, a 16-country association of Latin American and Caribbean nations, plus Canada, said that it will not recognize the Maduro’s continuation in office.
Other presidents on the panel expressed concern over events in Venezuela.
“We as a region have to speak with one voice,” said Carlos Alvarado Quesada, President of Costa Rica. “You (Hausmann) are talking in legal terms. But we also have to accept realpolitik. Will this resolve the crisis or not?” Earlier in the session Alvarado noted: “It is not just Venezuela. Look at Nicaragua. It is important that Latin American democracies come up with a solution. It should not be isolated as a national problem” in those two countries.
“We would have liked dialogue and a new election” in Venezuela, said Lenin Morena Garcés, President of Ecuador. “There were many shortcomings in the election process.”
The presidents also discussed the refugee crisis as Venezuelans pour out of their country, landing mostly in Colombia, Ecuador and Chile. More Venezuelans have left their country in recent years than Syrians who have gone to Europe, said Luis Alberto Moreno, President of the Inter-American Bank. “We have to think about how to integrate these people, to provide them with public services, healthcare and education,” he said.