US, Switzerland Agree to Protecting Power Arrangement for Venezuela

Switzerland to represent US interests in Venezuela

Switzerland to represent US interests in Venezuela

Switzerland and the United States signed an agreement on Friday for the neutral country to represent USA interests in Venezuela, which broke off diplomatic relations with Washington after it recognised the opposition leader as president.

Switzerland will represent US interests in Venezuela after the American embassy was closed in Caracas, according to the US State Department.

The agreement was signed in Bern on Friday by foreign minister Ignazio Cassis and the United States ambassador to Switzerland Edward McMullen.

Foreign Minister Ignazio Cassis (right) and US Ambassador to Switzerland Edward T. McMullen shake hands after signing the agreement.

He also called upon the armed forces of Venezeula "to uphold their constitutional duty to protect the Venezuelan people from the terrorist groups, known as the Collectivos", which he claimed had been called upon by Maduro with the goal "to break the constitutionality of Venezuela, to violate the constitution and to repress Venezuelans".

The mandate "offers Switzerland the opportunity to contribute to the de-escalation of tensions between the two countries and thus play a constructive role for regional stability", according to the Swiss government.

The US, which has not ruled out military intervention to oust Maduro, is among some 50 countries that have recognised Guaido as Venezuela's leader.

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Cassis discussed such a mandate in meetings with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the national security advisor John Bolton, and in mid-March the US government officially asked Switzerland to assume this protective power mandate in Venezuela.

So-called protecting power mandates, of which Switzerland now holds six, allow Swiss good offices to step in as go-betweens, providing consular services or making diplomatic efforts, when countries have broken off ties.

Switzerland now represents US interests in Iran and previously also represented its interests in Cuba. Until 2015, Switzerland also represented USA interests in Cuba and vice versa.

The legislation aims to "provide humanitarian relief to the Venezuelan people and Venezuelan migrants, to advance a constitutional and democratic solution to Venezuela's political crisis, to address Venezuela's economic reconstruction, to combat public corruption, narcotics trafficking, and money laundering, and for other purposes".

Juan Guaido, Venezuelan opposition leader and parliament speaker, whose appointment to that position had been cancelled by the country's Supreme Court, declared himself interim president at a rally in the country's capital of Caracas on January 23. Several countries, including the United States, Lima Group members (excluding Mexico), as well as the Organization of American States, recognized him as president.

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