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Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez emphasized here Tuesday to members of the Venezuelan opposition that National Assembly speaker Juan Guaido, who has proclaimed himself interim president, must guide the oil-rich Andean nation to free and democratic elections.

Sanchez participated in the closing session of the Council of the Socialist International by delivering a speech in which he said he sent the organization's "encouragement" to the Venezuelan people and also directed a message to leftist President Nicolas Maduro.

"Whoever sets socialism and freedom against each other and responds with bullets and with prisons to the yearning for freedom and democracy is not a socialist, he's a tyrant," Sanchez said.

He added that "Venezuelans need to feel the encouragement of the Socialist International," and he emphasized that "their fight for democracy is the raison d'etre for our political parties and, therefore, we will always be with them."

The Socialist International is an association of socialist, social-democratic and pro-labor parties.

The Spanish premier delivered his remarks after meeting with the Venezuelan opposition figures present at the conclave: Carlos Valero, Mauricio Poler and Paula di Mattia.

Sanchez said that Guaido "is the leader of the Venezuelan transition and it will be he who leads the process of elections and the transition," Valero told reporters.

He also said that the Spaniard had reminded his listeners that Madrid did not recognize the May 2018 elections that gave Maduro a second term and that in Venezuela there is a "power vacuum that must be filled by the National Assembly (AN) headed by Guaido."

The Venezuelan opposition has felt - he continued - the support and respect of the Spanish government for the AN and its stance that there must be "a political solution with competitive free and fair elections."

Valero thanked Spain for its support and said he was convinced that a large portion of the solution to the Venezuelan crisis will come from the support of Europe and Spain.

Numerous Latin American countries have joined the United States in recognizing Guaido as Venezuela's acting president.

Spain, Germany and the United Kingdom have given Maduro an ultimatum to call new elections within eight days or see Madrid, Berlin and London recognize Guiado.

Maduro enjoys support from Russia and China, while Mexico and Uruguay have offered to mediate between the parties in Venezuela.

Meanwhile, Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza on Tuesday said that Sanchez "has openly joined" the coup d'etat that Maduro has been claiming was staged against him from the US.

"OK. @sanchezcastejon has openly joined Trump's Coup d'Etat in Venezuela. He took a long time to do so. The best part is when from his European corporative capitalism (viewpoint) he attempts to give lectures on equality and socialism," wrote Arreaza on Twitter.