SUNDAY TIMES WEB DESK: The clock, meanwhile, was ticking on a midnight deadline set by seven European countries demanding that Maduro call presidential elections or see them recognise Guaido, head of the National Assembly, as acting president.

And in Washington, US President Donald Trump warned that a US military intervention remains “an option” in dealing with the crisis in oil-rich Venezuela.

Tens of thousands of people turned out Saturday for competing shows of support for Guaido, who stunned the world ten days ago by declaring himself “acting president,” and Maduro, who was sworn on January 10 to a disputed second six-year term.

During the protest, Guaido announced the installation of collection centres for medicine and food in neighbouring Colombia and Brazil.

At the opposition leader’s request, Washington was already readying “and transporting humanitarian aid” for Venezuela, US National Security Advisory John Bolton said on Twitter.

The US recognised Guaido as Venezuela’s interim president on January 23 while seven European nations, including Britain, France, Germany and Spain, have said they will do likewise unless Maduro calls presidential elections by midnight on Sunday.

Austria was the latest to join the group. Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz announced the decision to join the ultimatum in a tweet on Sunday.
France warned Maduro of the approaching deadline and that it was preparing to recognise Guaido.

“The ultimatum ends tonight,” France’s European affairs minister Natalie Loiseau told French media on Sunday.

“If between now and this evening Mr Maduro does not commit to organising presidential elections, we will consider that Mr Guaido is legitimate to organise them in his place,” Loiseau added.