January 24, 2019 / 4:44 PM / 4 months ago

UPDATE 1-Venezuela crisis can only be overcome with elections -Portugal foreign minister

(Adds details, Portuguese community)

LISBON, Jan 24 (Reuters) - Portuguese Foreign Minister Augusto Santos Silva said on Thursday the only way for Venezuela to overcome its political crisis is by holding free elections.

Speaking to reporters after the government’s weekly cabinet meeting, Santos Silva also called for the restoration of Venezuela’s parliament.

“We request that the liberty and integrity of all members of parliament be restored,” he said, adding that it is time for President Nicolas Maduro to “understand that time is up”.

Portugal has a special interest in Venezuela because there are an estimated 200,000 Portuguese living there and more than a million descendents of Portuguese emigrants.

“Portugal has to guarantee the safety of the Portuguese community living there,” said Santos Silva, offering the country’s help “to facilitate the internal policy process”.

Late last year, as social strife started in Venezuela, Lisbon encouraged Portuguese to return home, including opening a special 50 million euro credit line to business owners who considered coming back.

In Venezuela, the opposition was seeking on Thursday to maintain pressure on an isolated Maduro after congress chief Juan Guaido swore himself in as interim head of state with the support of nations around the region.

Reporting by Goncalo Almeida, Writing by Axel Bugge, Editing by Catherine Evans

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