Nicolas Maduro made a speech to his supporters as anti-government protests took place across Caracas

President Nicolas Maduro has rejected an EU ultimatum to call elections in Venezuela, after opposition leader Juan Guaido declared himself the country’s legitimate leader.

Major European powers gave Mr Maduro until midnight on Sunday to call “free and fair elections” or they would recognise Mr Guaido, 35, as the country’s interim president.

The embattled hardline socialist president said in an interview with Spanish television station Sexta that he would not “cave in to pressure” by those calling for his departure.

On Saturday, Mr Maduro told supporters he would not stand down as hundreds of thousands of people flooded the streets of Caracas to demand his resignation.

It comes as US President Donald Trump said the use of military force is still “an option” in Venezuela as the power struggle continues between Mr Maduro and Mr Guaido.

Pressed over sending troops to the oil-rich South American nation, which is in the grip of humanitarian and political turmoil, Mr Trump said: “Certainly it’s something that’s on the – it’s an option.”

Mr Trump also said he turned down a request for a meeting with Mr Maduro “a number of months ago”.

Mr Maduro maintains the backing of Russia, China and Turkey, and the critical support of the military.

Alexander Shchetinin, head of the Latin America department at Russia’s Foreign Ministry, urged restraint.

“The international community’s goal should be to help (Venezuela), without destructive meddling from beyond its borders,” he said.

More to follow…

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