Maduro took office for a second term on January 10 on the basis of what was by many condemned as a fraudulent election last May.
The opposition, alongside Juan Guaido, rejected Maduro’s claim, and on January 23, Guaido self-proclaimed interim president.
Below find all the updates from January 22 to April 11. For the latest developments click here.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said China’s financing of President Nicolas Maduro’s government is prolonging the crisis in Venezuela.
Pompeo kicked off a four-country tour of Latin America on Friday in Chile. He met with President Sebastian Pinera in Santiago, where they discussed Venezuela’s crisis and the US-China trade war, among other issues.
Pompeo said China is a major US trading partner, but that its “trade activities often are deeply connected to their national security mission, their technological goals, their desire to steal intellectual property, to have forced technology transfer, to engage in activity that is not economic.”
The international community is providing a $31.5m grant to help Colombia accommodate Venezuelan migrants and refugees as well as the communities that host them.
The funds provided by the Global Concessional Financing Facility – a platform launched in 2016 by the World Bank, the United Nations and the Islamic Development Bank- will be part of a $750m development policy operation being prepared by the World Bank to support Colombia.
The World Bank said in a press release that the annual cost of hosting more than 1.2 million migrants and refugees from Venezuela is currently estimated at around 0.4 percent of Colombia’s economic output.
The US Treasury on Friday unveiled financial sanctions on four maritime shipping companies and nine of their oil tankers over crude deliveries to Cuba, to pressure Havana to end support for Venezuela.
The sanctions raise US pressure on the “the illegitimate regime of former President Nicolas Maduro”, the Treasury said in a statement.
The US sanctions targeted three Liberian shipping corporations and one based in Italy. Of the nine tankers penalised, four had delivered Venezuelan crude to Cuba. The sanctions freeze US-based assets of the company and also block them from much of the global financial system.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank (WB) have said they are ready to respond to the humanitarian crisis in Venezuela once their participation is requested.
But President Nicolas Maduro and his predecessor Hugo Chavez have shunned the two international lending agencies, which they accuse of imposing damaging austerity policies on nations they aid.
The United States will make a decision about Spanish oil company Repsol’s activity in Venezuela in coming days, US Venezuela envoy Elliott Abrams said on Thursday.
Since the US imposed fresh sanctions on Venezuela and its state-run oil firm PDVSA in January, the country’s main oil and oil products suppliers have been Repsol, Russian state oil major Rosneft, India’s Reliance Industries and trading houses Vitol and Trafigura, according to sources and vessel-tracking data.
Repsol has said it fully complies with all legislation and sanctions regarding Venezuela and closely monitors the situation on a cargo-by-cargo basis.
The International Committee of the Red Cross will triple its budget in Venezuela this year as it helps authorities address mounting humanitarian concerns in the politically turbulent nation.
The trip took him to several public hospitals, slums and migrant centres that have seen the worst of a social crisis expected to worsen as US financial sanctions take effect.
Red Cross President Peter Maurer said his Geneva-based organisation is tripling its budget this year in Venezuela to around $24m and almost doubling its staff to around 180 people.
US Vice President Mike Pence told the Security Council on Wednesday that the Trump administration is determined to restore democracy to Venezuela, preferably through diplomatic and economic pressure, but “all options are on the table” – and Russia and others need to step aside.
Venezuela’s UN Ambassador Samuel Moncada said the country is threatened with war by the Trump administration, “and the ground is being laid for an invasion”. He told the council: “We must stop this war of Donald Trump”.
The United States called an emergency meeting of the UN’s most powerful body, which is deeply divided over Venezuela, to focus on the worsening humanitarian situation in Venezuela.
The International Monetary Fund will not have any contact with Venezuela, nor allow the country to access its reserves held by the institution, until the international community recognises a government in Caracas, an IMF spokesman said on Wednesday.
The country’s leadership has been in question since late January when national assembly leader Juan Guaido challenged embattled President Nicolas Maduro as the country’s acute economic crisis worsened.
US Vice President Mike Pence called on the United Nations on Wednesday to revoke the UN credentials of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s government and recognise opposition leader Juan Guaido as the country’s legitimate leader.
He said the United States had drafted a UN resolution and called on all states to support it.
Read more here.
President Nicolas Maduro’s government in Venezuela poses a threat to the United States, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Wednesday, referring to the increased involvement of Russia, Iran and Cuba in the country.
“I don’t think there is any doubt that … the Maduro regime presents a threat to the United States of America,” Pompeo told a US congressional hearing.
The Trump administration has said that Maduro has surrounded himself with Cuban security and intelligence officials, and told Moscow to withdraw some 100 Russian troops that arrived in Venezuela in March.
US Vice President Mike Pence called on the United Nations on Wednesday to revoke the UN credentials of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s government and recognise opposition leader Juan Guaido as the country’s legitimate leader.
He said the United States had drafted a UN resolution and called on all states to support it.
Diplomats said it is unlikely Washington will get the support needed to adopt such a measure.
OPEC says Venezuela pumped 960,000 barrel of oil a day in March, a one-third drop from the previous month in a country enduring US oil sanctions and nationwide blackouts.
The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries announced the figures in a monthly report that was released on Wednesday.
Venezuela’s oil output has been in decline and it pumped about three times as much oil two decades ago.
UN humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock said Venezuela’s humanitarian problem has worsened and “the scale of need is significant and growing” – with seven million people representing 25 percent of the population needing humanitarian aid.
Lowcock told a Security Council meeting called by the United States on Wednesday that the UN is working to expand humanitarian aid, but that much more is needed.
He said there’s “a need to separate political and humanitarian objectives” and urged the council’s support “to safeguard the neutral and impartial nature of humanitarian action”.
The International Committee of the Red Cross has regained access to prisons in Venezuela, including highly guarded military facilities where dozens of inmates considered political prisoners are being held, as President Nicolas Maduro seeks to counter mounting criticism of his government’s human rights record.
The fact that the visits include military prisons, which hadn’t been previously reported, was confirmed to The Associated Press by a human rights lawyer and family members of those detained.
International Red Cross President Peter Maurer met with Maduro on Tuesday night as he wraps up a five-day visit to Venezuela, where the Geneva-based group is among international organisations trying to carve out a space to deliver badly needed humanitarian aid and technical assistance free of the winner-take-all politics contributing to the country’s turmoil.
Human Rights Watch and public health researchers from Johns Hopkins School of Medicine are urging the United Nations to declare the situation in Venezuela “a complex humanitarian emergency that poses a serious risk to the region”.
They appealed to the Security Council ahead of its meeting on Wednesday on Venezuela’s humanitarian crisis to ask Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to make a declaration because their research shows severe medicine and food shortages in Venezuela, and disease spreading across its borders.
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has said his country was ready to receive international aid following a meeting with the Red Cross chief, as the Latin American nation plunged into a new round of blackouts.
“We confirm our readiness to establish cooperation mechanisms for international assistance and support,” Maduro said on Twitter on Tuesday.
Read more here.
The Organization of American States’ Permanent Council on Tuesday recognised Gustavo Tarre as representative of Venezuela until new elections are held in the South American country.
Tarre was appointed by opposition leader Juan Guaido, who in January declared himself Venezuela’s interim president and has vowed to overthrow President Nicolas Maduro.
The Council decided to “accept the appointment of Mr Gustavo Tarre as the National Assembly’s designated representative, pending new elections and the appointment of a democratically elected government” according to the resolution adopted by 18 votes in favour, nine against and six abstentions.
Incoming El Salvador president Nayib Bukele will not invite regional counterparts Nicolas Maduro of Venezuela, Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua and Honduras’ Juan Orlando Hernandez to his June 1 inauguration, a top aide said on Tuesday.
“They’re not going to be invited. El Salvador, in the next government, will be part of a group of democratic countries that believe in elections, in states where the people have to elect their governments in a democratic way,” said Federico Anliker, secretary general of Bukele’s New Ideas party.
The UN refugee chief is appealing to Latin American countries to “keep the doors open and diminish the restrictions imposed on Venezuelans” seeking refuge.
UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi told the Security Council on Tuesday that 3.5 million Venezuelans have left the country and about 15 countries have received them – primarily Colombia, Peru, Ecuador and Brazil.
He urged increased support for those countries, saying, “our appeal for the humanitarian crisis in that region is one of the most poorly funded globally”.
Venezuela removed eight tonnes of gold from the central bank’s vaults last week, and the cash-strapped socialist state is expected to sell the bullion abroad as it seeks to raise hard currency in the face of US sanctions, a politician and one government source told Reuters news agency.
With sanctions imposed by Washington choking off revenues from exports by state oil company PDVSA, President Nicolas Maduro’s increasingly isolated administration has turned to sales of Venezuela’s substantial gold reserves as one of the only sources of foreign currency.
The government source said the Central Bank’s reserves had fallen by 30 tonnes since the start of the year before US President Donald Trump tightened sanctions, leaving the bank with around 100 tonnes in its vaults, worth more than $4bn.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will travel to the Venezuela border in Colombia to highlight the plight of refugees during a four-nation trip to Latin America, the State Department announced on Monday.
Pompeo will pay a brief visit on Sunday to the Colombian city of Cucuta after stops in Chile, Paraguay and Peru – all four countries led by right-wing or center-right leaders favourable to the tough US approach on Venezuela.
In Cucuta, Pompeo will “visit entities supporting Venezuelan refugees and assess the challenges due to the closed border,” the State Department said in a statement.
An Iranian delegation landed in Venezuela on Monday to discuss launching direct flights between the two countries, Venezuela’s foreign minister said, as Tehran voices support for President Nicolas Maduro against the opposition backed by most Western countries.
A plane belonging to Mahan Air, a private Iranian airline accused by the West of transporting military equipment to Middle East war zones, landed in Caracas on Monday, as the two countries planned on discussing launching a direct flight “in the coming months”, Minister Jorge Arreaza told reporters.
A White House official said the US government viewed the launch of direct flights as a “politically motivated gesture”.
The nonstop Tehran-Caracas flight would take 16 hours.
Venezuela will “fulfill its commitments” to Cuba despite US sanctions targeting oil shipments from the South American country to its ideological ally, Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza said on Monday.
Washington on Friday imposed sanctions on 34 vessels owned or operated by state-run oil company Petroleos de Venezuela as well as on two companies and a vessel that have previously delivered oil to Cuba, aiming to choke off a crucial supply of crude to the Communist-run island.
Venezuela has long sent subsidised crude to Cuba. The US describes the arrangement as an “oil-for-repression” scheme in which Havana helps socialist President Nicolas Maduro weather an economic crisis and power struggle with the opposition in exchange for fuel.
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro said on Monday he is working with the US government to sow dissent within the Venezuelan Army.
Bolsonaro, during an interview with Jovem Pan radio, said that if there is a military invasion in Venezuela, he would seek the counsel of Brazil’s National Defense Council and Congress on what, if any, action his country should take.
“We cannot allow Venezuela to become a new Cuba or North Korea,” the right-wing president said.
Bolsonaro said that if any military intervention actually deposed Venezuela’s president, Nicolas Maduro, it is quite likely that the country would see guerrilla warfare waged by Maduro’s diehard backers and whomever took power.
Iran’s second largest airline has begun direct flights to Venezuela, as the two countries cultivate closer ties in the face of US sanctions.
Iran’s official IRNA news agency says Mahan airline’s first flight to Venezuela left Tehran on Monday carrying a Foreign Ministry delegation.
The United States blacklisted Mahan in 2011 after accusing it of providing support to the Quds Force, an elite unit of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps.
Venezuela’s socialist President Nicolas Maduro said on Saturday a new electrical system would be “consolidated within 30 days” and called for international support for a national dialogue with the opposition.
Speaking to a massive crowd of supporters in Caracas, Maduro said the government was moving at a good pace to “consolidate the stability of a new electrical system for service for the people”.
Maduro also made a new call for dialogue towards reaching peace in Venezuela with help from the fellow Latin American countries, including Mexico and Uruguay.
Supporters and opponents of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro are once again poured into the streets of Caracas, the latest rival rallies to be held in the capital amid a protracted political crisis and rising anger over blackouts that have left millions without electricity and water.
Juan Guaido, the self-proclaimed interim president and leader of the National Assembly, has asked his supporters not to get used to living in “darkness” while blaming high-level corruption and mismanagement under Maduro for the electricity outages.
Guaido has also held the government responsible for an exodus of people from the oil-rich country.
The United States has added two oil-sector companies and 34 vessels to a sanctions list aimed at forcing Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro to step down.
A Treasury Department announcement said the companies and vessels are being used to ship fuel to Cuba or in other aspects of the oil industry and help support the Maduro government.
The US imposed sanctions on Venezuela’s oil industry in January to cut off the government’s most important source of revenue.
Switzerland and the United States signed an agreement on Friday for the neutral country to represent US interests in Venezuela, which broke off diplomatic relations with Washington after it recognised the opposition leader as president.
The mandate, signed by Switzerland’s foreign minister and the US ambassador to Switzerland in Berne, should help defuse tensions between the US and Venezuela, the Swiss government said, but first Venezuela must agree to let Switzerland take on the role.
Switzerland currently represents US interests in Iran and previously also represented its interests in Cuba.
The Trump administration is renewing calls for Moscow to withdraw its military personnel from Venezuela, where they are helping prop up embattled President Nicolas Maduro.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told Fox News on Friday that he’s seen no signs the Russian personnel were leaving and that Moscow’s involvement might “get worse before it gets better”.
The Kremlin has rejected US calls for Moscow to withdraw, saying US troops are in many parts of the world and no one is telling the US where it should or shouldn’t be.
Weeks of power cuts in Venezuela have further crippled an already fragile infrastructure, creating widespread water shortages hampering basic services.
Power has been restored in many areas but it is being rationed, and without electricity to run pumps there is not enough water in many areas.
Venezuela’s top diplomat said on Thursday his government was seeking to avoid a Syria-style civil war during a visit to long-time ally Damascus.
Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza accused the United States of fuelling the conflict, but said his government would rely on diplomacy to avoid a full-blown war.
“When President Assad described the stages before and the stages during the early days of the war on Syria, similarities with what we are experiencing in Venezuela were immediately noticeable,” he said during a joint press conference with his Syrian counterpart.
We have “the same enemy with the same interests”, he said, referring to the US. “With the help of our friends, we have to avoid war, to stop the war,” he added.
Venezuela’s Deputy Foreign Minister Ivan Gil said on Thursday he does not rule out that more Russian military personnel may arrive in Venezuela under agreements already concluded with Russia, Interfax news agency reported.
The deputy minister also said Russian forces will stay in Venezuela as long as needed, and that there is no set period for their stay.
“The group of military specialists is [in Venezuela] in the context of our agreements and contracts for military-technical cooperation,” Interfax quoted Gil as saying.
European Union governments condemned on Thursday a measure by Venezuela’s Constituent Assembly that allows for the trial of opposition leader Juan Guaido.
“The EU rejects the decision taken by the non-recognised National Constituent Assembly to lift Juan Guaido’s parliamentary immunity. This decision constitutes a serious violation of the Venezuelan constitution, as well as of the rule of law and separation of power,” the EU said in a statement.
“These acts undermine a political way out of the crisis and only lead to further polarisation and escalation of tensions in the country,” the statement said.
Classes resumed in Venezuela’s schools on Wednesday after two major national blackouts forced the education ministry to extend the school year.
Two major nationwide power outages led the government to cancel classes across the country.
Education Minister Aristobulo Isturiz said classes, which usually end at the beginning of July, would continue until the end of that month, state-run news agency AVN reported.
Colombia’s President Ivan Duque said on Wednesday that if Venezuela’s opposition leader, Juan Guaido, was arrested by the Venezuelan government it would be a serious mistake.
Speaking at an event for business leaders in Bogota, Duque stated that it would be “a serious break of order”.
“We consider his detention by the dictatorship and the criminal persecution warrants a clear rejection and very firm multilateral action to re-establish order in Venezuela,” he said.
Loyalists of President Nicolas Maduro stripped Guaido of immunity on Tuesday, paving the way for the opposition leader’s prosecution and potential arrest for supposedly violating the constitution when he declared himself interim president.
Keeping up pressure for political change in Venezuela, a bipartisan group of 15 US senators introduced bipartisan legislation on Wednesday to provide $400m in new aid, internationalise sanctions and ease penalties on officials who recognise a new government.
The Venezuelan Emergency Relief, Democracy Assistance and Development (VERDAD) Act would provide $200m in new aid for Venezuela and $200m for neighbouring countries taking in refugees.
It would also revoke US visas for relatives of sanctioned Venezuelans, remove sanctions on officials not involved in human rights abuses if they recognise self-declared interim president Juan Guaido, and require work with Latin American and European governments to implement their own sanctions.
White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow on Wednesday said the United States has plans to rapidly revitalise the Venezuelan economy, including financial and food planning as well as getting cash to people in the country.
The rescue and restructuring plan for Venezuela would involve getting dollars into the country, and the US is working with banks in the region to help, Kudlow told reporters at an event hosted by the Christian Science Monitor news outlet.
Venezuela’s foreign minister, meeting with anti-US allies in the Middle East, said on Wednesday that opposition leader Juan Guaido is in breach of the constitution and that the judiciary has to “take care” of it.
Jorge Arreaza met Lebanon’s president and foreign minister in Beirut. He is expected to meet an official from the Hezbollah group before travelling onward to Syria.
Maduro’s government has warm relations with Syria and its allies in Lebanon.
Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido has said he knows he runs the risk of being arrested for pushing to overthrow President Nicolas Maduro.
But a defiant Guaido said on Tuesday that he is undeterred.
The 35-year-old opposition leader spoke publicly moments after an assembly loyal to Maduro stripped him of his immunity from prosecution.
“That the regime intends to kidnap us? Well, of course. We know that all they have left is brute force, we know that. But we have audacity, intelligence, soul, strength, heart, hope, trust in this country, in ourselves,” he said.
Venezuelan politicians have stripped Juan Guaido of immunity, paving way for the opposition leader’s prosecution and potential arrest for supposedly violating the constitution when he declared himself interim president.
“[Guaido’s prosecution] is officially authorised,” Diosdado Cabello, head of the Maduro-loyal Constituent Assembly said following an assembly vote on Tuesday.
Vice President Mike Pence called on Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro to immediately release six American oil executives who have been jailed for more than a year without trial, but he acknowledged that their freedom will be slow to come as long as Maduro remains in power.
“The United States today calls for the immediate release of these six individuals,” Pence said at a White House meeting with relatives of those who have been held for nearly 18 months while the Venezuelan government has postponed multiple court hearings in the case.
Pence said the five US citizens and one legal permanent US resident, all with roots in Texas and Louisiana, are being “illegally detained”.
The men, all employees of Houston-based Citgo, a longtime US subsidiary of the Venezuelan oil giant PDVSA, were summoned to Caracas in November 2017 for a last-minute budget meeting but were arrested and charged with embezzlement stemming from a never-executed proposal to refinance some $4bn in Citgo bonds.
Authorities in Colombia are warning of potential unrest at a border crossing with Venezuela after droves of migrants broke through a blockade erected amid mounting hostilities between the two countries.
President Nicolas Maduro in February closed Venezuela’s border with Colombia in a bid to stop a US-backed plan to deliver humanitarian aid.
Since then, the thousands of migrants who cross daily into Colombia looking for food and medicine have relied on sometimes dangerous dirt paths between both countries.
But the Tachira River separating both countries swelled on Tuesday after heavy rainfall. That led the migrants to break a Venezuelan police blockade at the Simon Bolivar bridge and climb atop shipping containers placed there by Maduro to block the delivery of aid.
Colombia on Tuesday rejected a Russian warning against foreign military intervention in Venezuela and said it supported a peaceful transition to democracy in the neighbouring South American country.
“Colombia reiterates that the transition to democracy must be conducted by the Venezuelans themselves peacefully and within the framework of the Constitution and international law, supported by political and diplomatic means, without the use of force,” Colombian Foreign Minister Carlos Holmes Trujillo said in a statement.
He was responding to a March 28 letter from the upper house of Russia’s parliament, forwarded to Colombia’s Congress by Russian Ambassador Sergei Koshkin, that said the “illegitimate use of military force against Venezuela by other states that support the opposition will be interpreted … as an act of aggression against a sovereign state”.
Colombia, which supports opposition leader Juan Guaido, has repeatedly denied it has any intention of launching a military offensive across its border with Venezuela.
US Vice President Mike Pence said on Tuesday the United States would continue to bring pressure on Venezuela’s oil industry and would stand firm on sanctions against the Venezuelan state oil company PDVSA.
Pence, in a meeting with families of American Citgo executives arrested in Venezuela, said oil prices had been quite low and competitive recently.
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro on Monday said he had replaced electricity minister Luis Motta amid a series of nationwide blackouts that have led to protests from citizens demanding restoration of power and water services.
Motta will be replaced with electrical engineer Igor Gaviria, Maduro said in a state television address.
Russia has opened a training centre in Venezuela to help the country’s pilots fly Russian-made military helicopters, Russian state-owned industrial conglomerate Rostec said on Monday, Moscow’s latest gesture of support for President Nicolas Maduro.
Rostec said the centre was inaugurated on Thursday last week, the same day as the White House warned Moscow and other countries backing Maduro against sending troops and military equipment, saying the United States would view such actions as a “direct threat” to the region’s security.
Rostec said the new training facility, the location of which it did not disclose, had been set up with the help of Russian specialists and was designed to train Venezuelan pilots to fly Russian-made Mi-35M helicopter gunships as well as Russian-made military transport helicopters.
Venezuela’s chief justice is asking pro-government legislators to strip opposition leader Juan Guaido of immunity from prosecution.
The request by Supreme Court Justice Maikel Moreno on Monday takes a further step towards prosecuting Guaido for alleged crimes.
Moreno asked the pro-Maduro National Constituent Assembly to waive immunity Guaido holds as a member of Venezuela’s National Assembly.
Officials loyal to Maduro have already said that Guaido is under investigation for inciting violence against the government and receiving illicit funds.
Amid Venezuela’s deepening political and economic crisis, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) say that the authoritarian government of President Nicolás Maduro is arresting more journalists.
Some 39 journalists have been arrested so far this year, according to Carcas-based Institute for Press and Society (IPYS) – an increase from 22 detentions recorder in 2018.
The government “is trying to intimidate and demobilize journalists”, IPYS analyst Mariengracia Chirinos told CPJ. “Reporting in Venezuela has become a much riskier activity.”
In some cases, the journalists had been reporting on sensitive subjects. But other journalists and camera operators have been arrested for seemingly more innocuous actions, such as filming anti-government graffiti or reporting near the Miraflores presidential palace in Caracas.
Dozens of Venezuelans who fled to Bolivia over recent months to escape economic and political unrest at home said they fear being deported from one of the few countries in the region that still supports the government of Venezuelan leader Nicolas Maduro.
Police last month arrested more than a dozen Venezuelans identified as having led anti-Maduro protests in front of the Cuban embassy in the Bolivian capital La Paz. Bolivia’s leftist President Evo Morales is an ally of both Havana and Maduro.
The protesters had demanded the end of what they called interference in Venezuelan affairs by Cuba, the Communist-party-led Caribbean nation that they blame for stoking Venezuela’s humanitarian crisis.
Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido on Monday called on supporters to continue taking to the streets in protest of power and water shortages, as the government of President Nicolas Maduro appeared prepared to begin a rationing programme.
Scattered protests continued throughout several working-class neighbourhoods of the capital Caracas on Monday, with small groups of people blocking roads demanding water be returned after a week of intermittent blackouts that have left many areas without electricity.
That followed demonstrations around Caracas on Monday night when police fired gunshots after residents set up burning barricades, according to Reuters witnesses. The oil-rich South American country has been hit by two waves of crippling blackouts since March 7.
Venezuelans are struggling to understand an announcement that the nation’s electricity is being rationed to combat daily blackouts.
Office worker Raquel Mayorca said on Monday she didn’t know if her lights were off because of another power failure or whether it was part of the government’s plans. She said the power was out on one side of the street, but working on the other.
President Nicolas Maduro said a day earlier that he was instituting a 30-day plan to ration electricity but provided no details. He called on Venezuelans to be calm.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Turkey is giving Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro its continued support and intends to deepen cooperation with Venezuela “in all fields” despite US pressure.
Cavusoglu spoke on Monday during a joint news conference in Turkey with Venezuela’s foreign affairs minister, Jorge Arreaza.
Turkey has become one of Maduro’s biggest backers, along with Russia, China and Cuba. The United States and dozens of nations in Latin America and Europe are supporting Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido.
The two foreign ministers criticized US sanctions on Venezuela that have also targeted the country’s gold trade.
Venezuelans on Monday prepared to hold protests over continued shortages of power and water following angry demonstrations as the government of President Nicolas Maduro appeared prepared to begin a rationing program.
Police fired gunshots in parts of Caracas on Sunday night, according to Reuters witnesses, after residents set up burning barricades to demand a return of electricity and running water.
“We’ll see each other in the streets tomorrow,” opposition leader Juan Guaido, who invoked the country’s constitution to assume an interim presidency in January after arguing Maduro’s May 2018 re-election was illegitimate, tweeted on Sunday night. “We will not hide from the dictator.”
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro announced a 30-day plan to ration electricity after nationwide power cuts that have inflicted misery on millions of people and ignited protests, including one near the presidential palace in Caracas.
The rationing plan will help deal with the outages that have also cut off the water supply and communications for days at a time, Maduro said on Sunday in a speech on national television in which he also warned against any unrest in reaction to the blackouts.
Maduro blamed the blackout on a “terrorist attack against the electricity system” by Washington and the “putschist opposition”.
The opposition has attributed the power outages to a lack of investment in the national grid, poor upkeep and a failure to tackle repairs.
Venezuelans set up burning barricades near the presidential palace in Caracas and in other parts of the country on Sunday in protests over constant power outages and shortages of drinking water in the wake of two major blackouts this month.
The situation has fueled frustration with the government of President Nicolas Maduro and frayed nerves as schools and much of the nation’s commerce have been interrupted by problems with public services for nearly three weeks.
Protesters, some carrying rocks and their faces covered, burned tires and tree trunks along a stretch of downtown Caracas as they demanded Maduro improve the situation.
Demonstrators reported that one woman had been injured by gunfire, which they attributed to pro-government gangs. Reuters was unable to confirm who fired the shots.
Venezuelan security forces have fired tear gas to disperse demonstrators who turned out in Caracas to protest against massive power outages that have kept much of the country in darkness since early March.
“Small groups [of protesters] were trying, as they have done in the past, to block some roads in the capital. They have been confronted by police and dispersed with tear gas,” Al Jazeera’s Alessandro Rampietti, reporting from Bogota, the capital of neighbouring Colombia, said.
At least eight anti-government demonstrations were scheduled for Saturday in Caracas. It is not clear how many of these have been broken up by the country’s security forces.
The security forces’ action comes as Maduro and Guaido’s supporters are holding rival rallies throughout Venezuela.
The pro-government demonstrators are protesting against what they see as an imperialist threat to the country, while Guaido is urging his supporters to continue putting pressure on the government by taking to the streets every time there is a power outage.
Russia has dismissed US worries about the presence of Russian “specialists” in Venezuela, calling the concerns “absolutely groundless”.
Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on Saturday that Russia had clearly stated the purpose of the specialists it had sent to Venezuela under a military cooperation deal and that they did not pose a threat to regional stability.
“The Russian side clearly stated the purpose of the arrival of its specialists to Caracas. This is not about any ‘military contigents’,” Zakharova said in a statement.
“Thus, the speculations about the conduct of certain ‘military operations’ by Russia in Venezuela are absolutely groundless.”
The statement comes a day after the US warned Russia and others against sending troops to Venezuela.
Supporters of Guaido and Maduro, held rival demonstrations on Saturday.
Maduro loyalists gathered in the capital, Caracas, for what was billed as an “anti-imperialist” rally. With Maduro writing on Twitter that the Venezuelan people had mobilised to “say ‘NO’ to imperial terrorism”.
Hoy el pueblo venezolano se moviliza en todo el territorio nacional, en el marco de la Gran Operación en Defensa de la Libertad, para decirle "NO" al terrorismo imperial, y para defender la paz de nuestra amada Venezuela. ¡Leales Siempre, Traidores Nunca! pic.twitter.com/vHTmYtQwMu
— Nicolás Maduro (@NicolasMaduro) March 30, 2019
TRANSLATION: Today the Venezuelan people mobilised throughout the national territory as part of the Great Operation in Defence of Freedom to say “NO” to imperial terrorism, and to defend the peace of our beloved Venezuela. Loyalists Always, Traitors Never!
Meanwhile, Guaido addressed a large crowd in the nearby city of Los Teques, encouraging people to call for change. Anti-government protests were also scheduled to take place in several areas in Caracas on Saturday against ongoing power outages.
Venezuelan Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino said on Friday that US national security adviser John Bolton has been sending him messages asking him to do the “right thing”.
“Mr Bolton, I tell you that we are doing the right thing,” Padrino said in televised comments. “Doing the right thing is doing what’s written in the constitution … Doing the right thing is respecting the will of the people.”
It was not immediately evident if Padrino was referring to Bolton’s recent tweets, in which he made direct mention of Padrino.
The US special representative for Venezuela said on Friday that US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has a list of options, including sanctions, Washington could use to respond to the presence of Russian troops in Venezuela.
“We have a list of options we have given the secretary. There are a lot of things we can do in economic terms, in terms of sanctions,” Elliott Abrams told a news briefing. “We have options and it would be a mistake for the Russians to think they have a free hand,” he added.
Venezuela has met the necessary conditions for the Red Cross to carry out humanitarian work in the South American nation, the president of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said in a news conference on Friday.
Francesco Rocca said the group was in a position to help some 650,000 people in Venezuela, which has suffered rising incidence of malnutrition and preventable disease amid an economic collapse.
US President Donald Trump’s national security adviser warned Russia on Friday about its military presence in Venezuela, saying any move to establish or expand operations there would be considered a “direct threat” to international peace.
“We strongly caution actors external to the Western Hemisphere against deploying military assets to Venezuela, or elsewhere in the Hemisphere, with the intent of establishing or expanding military operations,” White House national security adviser John Bolton said in a statement.
“We will consider such provocative actions as a direct threat to international peace and security in the region,” Bolton added. The US government says the Russian troops include special forces and cybersecurity personnel.
The Venezuelan government said it has barred opposition leader Juan Guaido from holding public office for 15 years, though the National Assembly leader brushed off the measure and said it would not derail his campaign to remove President Nicolas Maduro.
The announcement by state comptroller Elvis Amoroso, a close ally of Maduro, cited alleged irregularities in Guaido’s financial records and reflected a tightening of government pressure on an opposition movement backed by the United States and its allies.
“We’re going to continue in the streets,” Guaido said soon after Amoroso’s statements on state television. He dismissed the comptroller’s announcement as irrelevant because, in his view, Maduro’s government is illegitimate.
Russian military specialists are in Venezuela to service pre-existing contracts for the supply of Russian arms, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov says.
Peskov also says Russia is not interfering in Venezuela’s internal affairs and that the Kremlin hopes other countries would let Venezuelans decide their own fate.
US President Donald Trump said on Wednesday that “all options” were open to make Russia pull troops out of Venezuela after two Russian air force planes landed outside Caracas on Saturday carrying nearly 100 Russian troops.
The United States was bringing “maximum pressure” on the Venezuelan government of President Nicolas Maduro, a top US sanctions official said on Friday.
Sigal Mandelker, under-secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, made her comments in Singapore. She is due to discuss sanctions on Iran over coming days with government officials in Malaysia, Singapore and India.
In the heart of the Venezuelan capital Caracas, a community has decided to create an agro-ecological farm and has called for the government and people to be ready for the coming US sanctions.
They have vegetables, fish and even rabbits to eat and distribute among the community. They say there are more than 20,000 projects like this one in Venezuela.
Al Jazeera’s Teresa Bo reports from Caracas, Venezuela.
Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido has called on his supporters to protest against a nationwide blackout, the second major power outage this month that is dragging into its third day.
El 6 de abril serán las primeras acciones tácticas de la #OperaciónLibertad en todo el país. Ese día debemos estar listos, preparados y organizados, con los Comités de Ayuda y Libertad ya conformados.
— Juan Guaidó (@jguaido) March 27, 2019
US President Donald Trump has said that Russian soldiers need to leave Venezuela, days after a Russian military contingent arrived just outside of Caracas, saying “all options” were open to make that happen.
“Russia has to get out,” Trump tells reporters during a meeting with the wife of Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido.
Asked how that could be accomplished, Trump says: “We’ll see. All options are open.”
Brazil is not considering the use of military force in Venezuela and hopes for a peaceful solution to the country’s crisis, Defense Minister Fernando Azevedo e Silva says as he meets his American counterpart at the Pentagon.
“That’s not a hypothesis we’re considering. Brazil is looking forward to a peaceful and swift solution to the crisis in Venezuela,” he says, when asked whether the use of military force might be appropriate
Venezuela has cancelled work and school as the second major blackout this month left streets mostly empty in Caracas and residents of the capital wondering how long power would be out amid a deepening economic and political crisis.
Maduro’s government blames an “attack” on its electrical system for the blackout that first hit on Monday.
The outage shuttered businesses, plunged the city’s main airport into darkness and left commuters stranded in Caracas.
“The enemies of our Homeland do not cease in their attempts to destabilise the Country,” Maduro writes on Twitter.
“I assure you that in every action of hatred against our Homeland, you will find an increasingly united, conscious and mobilised people. We will defeat them!”
Los enemigos de la Patria no cesan en sus intentos por desestabilizar el País. Les aseguro que en cada acción de odio contra nuestra Patria, encontrarán a un pueblo cada vez más unido, consciente y movilizado. ¡Los derrotaremos! pic.twitter.com/467cmj9xZm
— Nicolás Maduro (@NicolasMaduro) March 26, 2019
The US has blocked a meeting of the World Trade Organization’s dispute body, gumming up its operations over the Trump administration’s refusal to recognise the government of President Nicolas Maduro in Venezuela.
The US delegation refuses to approve the agenda of the Dispute Settlement Body that was to take up several issues on Tuesday, including a Venezuelan effort to lift US sanctions and measures against Maduro’s government and entourage.
Approval of the DSB agenda requires consensus. Such a postponement is rare, and the move amounts to a new US tactic to try to ratchet up pressure against Maduro’s government.
The deployment by Russia of air force planes and personnel in Venezuela over the weekend is a “reckless escalation of the situation,” the US State Department has said.
“The United States condemns Russia’s deployment of military aircraft and personnel to Caracas, which is another contradiction of both Nicolas Maduro’s and Russia’s calls for non-intervention in Venezuela and is a reckless escalation of the situation,” a department spokesman says.
Power outages have hit across Caracas and in other parts of Venezuela less than two weeks after power was restored following a prolonged blackout.
Power is out in much of eastern Caracas as well as downtown, where the Miraflores presidential palace and most government ministries are located. Authorities say the Caracas subway is shutting down due to the lack of power.
Shops across the country closed early to protect against possible looting.
Maduro has said a major shake-up will take place in his government in the coming days.
“I will in the coming hours announce a profound change in the entire government of Venezuela,” Maduro says in a speech at a political rally broadcast on state television.
“We need to renew ourselves, refresh, improve, change.”
Maduro also says the police has dismantled a plot to assassinate him led by Guaido and announces new arrests.
“We have dismantled a plan organised personally by the diabolical puppet to kill me,” Maduro tells thousands of supporters in Caracas.
“In the next few days there will surely be new captures of new terrorists,” he adds.
— Nicolás Maduro (@NicolasMaduro) March 23, 2019
The United States imposed sanctions on Friday on state-owned Venezuelan development bank Bandes in response to the arrest of an aide to opposition leader Juan Guaido, saying the government had used it to prop itself up by moving assets abroad.
“[President Nicolas] Maduro and his enablers have distorted the original purpose of the bank … as part of a desperate attempt to hold onto power,” US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement announcing the action.
US President Donald Trump is hosting the leaders of Jamaica, Bahamas, Haiti, Dominican Republic and St Lucia at his affluent Mar-a-Lago club to show his support for Caribbean countries that back democratic transition in Venezuela.
The five have either denounced President Nicolas Maduro or have joined more than 50 countries in recognising Juan Guaido as the rightful interim leader of the nation.
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said Trump will use the meeting to thank the leaders for their support for peace and democracy in Venezuela and discuss potential opportunities for energy investment.
Nations in the Caribbean, however, have been split on whether to interfere in Venezuela.
A group of South American leaders signed a declaration to create a regional bloc of nations they say is open to any country, regardless of ideology, to collaborate on solving regional problems.
Presidents from Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Chile, Ecuador, Paraguay, and Peru attended the summit in Santiago.
Chile and Colombia had led the push for the new political grouping after criticism that the previous regional bloc, called Unasur, failed to take action on Venezuela.
Venezuela’s interior minister said on Thursday that authorities had arrested opposition leader Juan Guaido’s chief of staff for his involvement in an alleged “terrorist cell” that was planning attacks against high-level political figures.
Interior Minister Nestor Reverol, during an appearance on state television, showed an image of two rifles, which he called evidence collected against Roberto Marrero.
The opposition had said earlier that intelligence agents had planted weapons in Marrero’s house during a pre-dawn raid, a move by President Nicolas Maduro that the Trump administration said would “not go unanswered”.
US President Donald Trump’s national security adviser called for the immediate release of Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido’s chief of staff on Thursday, saying his detention would “not go unanswered”.
White House national security adviser John Bolton said the government of Nicolas Maduro had “made another big mistake” with the “illegitimate arrest” of the aide, Roberto Marrero. “He should be released immediately and his safety guaranteed,” Bolton wrote in a Twitter post.
The International Monetary Fund is still awaiting guidance from its members on whether to recognise Juan Guaido as Venezuela’s leader, IMF spokesman Gerry Rice said on Thursday, adding that there is no schedule for an IMF board meeting to decide the issue.
Rice told an IMF news briefing that there is still no clarity on Venezuela’s leadership situation and any shift in the Fund’s recognition of the government will be guided by its 189 member countries and the international community and “views are still being formed”.
Another Washington-based multilateral institution, the Inter-American Development Bank, last week replaced the representative of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro with an economist backed by Guaido, a major setback for the Maduro government.
Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido said on Thursday intelligence agents had detained his chief of staff following a pre-dawn raid, signaling that President Nicolas Maduro may be cracking down on the opposition’s challenge to his rule.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, in a post on Twitter on Thursday, called for Roberto Marrero’s immediate release and said “we will hold accountable those involved”. The United States has repeatedly warned Maduro not to move against Guaido.
The UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet said on Wednesday that Venezuelan security forces, backed by pro-government militias, have cracked down on peaceful dissent, with excessive use of force, killings and torture documented by her office.
Bachelet, addressing the United Nations Human Rights Council, also voiced concern that the latest US sanctions on financial transfers linked to the sale of Venezuelan oil “may contribute to aggravating the economic crisis”.
Venezuelan authorities had failed to acknowledge the extent and severity of the health and food crisis that has driven more than 3 million Venezuelans to flee abroad and they had adopted “insufficient” measures, she told the Geneva forum.
Brazilian Foreign Minister Ernesto Araujo said on Wednesday President Jair Bolsonaro’s visit to Washington this week made clear that the United States and Brazil share the same view of how to deal with the Venezuelan crisis.
Araujo said at a news conference that Brazil will act diplomatically and politically, while the US could increase sanctions against the Venezuelan government.
Although US President Donald Trump said on Tuesday all options are open, Brazil’s armed forces are opposed to any military intervention in Venezuela.
Venezuelan doctors have come under pressure from President Nicolas Maduro’s government for trying to alert a visiting UN mission about the severe lack of hospital medicine and equipment, NGOs say.
Venezuelan authorities say that US sanctions freezing $30bn in assets have blocked imports of basic items including medicine.
But they have roughly stomped down on dissenting voices saying much of the resulting medical emergency is the fault of mismanagement, the NGOs allege.
According to Medicos Unidos (Doctors United), the repression has worsened over the past two weeks. “We have drawn attention to our patients dying for lack of supplies and equipment. Doctors have been arrested without any reason at all,” Jaime Lorenzo, executive director of the association said.
US President Donald Trump said on Tuesday that his administration had held in reserve what he called “the toughest of sanctions” to try to cut off revenues to Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.
“We haven’t done the toughest of sanctions, as you know,” Trump said after discussing the crisis in Venezuela at the White House with Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro.
Trump in January slapped sanctions on state-owned oil company Petroleos de Venezuela, known as PDVSA, the stiffest economic measure against Maduro to date. But Trump’s administration has not yet tried to prevent companies based outside the United States from buying Venezuelan oil, a strategy known as “secondary sanctions”.
The secondary sanctions were part of Washington’s strategy to cut off revenue to Iran, which eventually helped force Tehran to negotiate a nuclear deal with six world powers in 2015.
US President Donald Trump on Tuesday reaffirmed that “all options” are being considered in his drive to bring down Venezuela’s hard-left President Nicolas Maduro.
“All options are on the table,” he told reporters in the White House. “It’s a shame what’s happening in Venezuela – the debt and the destruction and the hunger.”
Trump spoke at a meeting where he hosted Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who has backed the US-led campaign to pressure Maduro.
Talks between the United States and Russia over the crisis in Venezuela were positive and substantive but the two sides were still divided over the legitimacy of President Nicolas Maduro, US special representative Elliott Abrams said on Tuesday.
“No, we did not come to a meeting of minds, but I think the talks were positive in the sense that both sides emerged with a better understanding of the other’s views,” Abrams said, adding that both sides had agreed on the depth of the crisis.
Meanwhile, RIA news agency cited Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov as saying the talks over the crisis in Venezuela were difficult but frank.
Russia warned the US not to intervene militarily in Venezuela, a Moscow ally, and said it was increasingly concerned by US sanctions on the Latin American country, Ryabkov was quoted as saying.
The United States imposed sanctions on Tuesday against Venezuela’s state-run mining company Minerven and its president, Adrian Perdomo, in a bid to further cut off funding to the government of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.
The announcement came days after Uganda said it was investigating its biggest gold refinery for importing Venezuelan gold. Washington has warned gold traders not to deal in Venezuelan gold or oil.
“The illegitimate Maduro regime is pillaging the wealth of Venezuela while imperiling indigenous people by encroaching on protected areas and causing deforestation and habitat loss,” US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement.
A top US diplomat said her country wants an envoy of Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido to take up the rotating presidency of a key UN disarmament body in two months.
Assistant Secretary Yleem Poblete said on Tuesday the US hopes a Guaido envoy “will be in a position” to take the conference presidency when Venezuela’s turn comes in May.
Venezuelan ambassador Jorge Valero, who represents President Nicolas Maduro’s government, called Poblete’s comments “absolutely absurd” and accused the Trump administration of seeking to install a “puppet president” in Venezuela.
Venezuela has suspended its oil exports to India and views Russia and China as its main export destinations, the Azeri energy ministry said on Tuesday, citing Venezuela’s oil minister.
The Azeri ministry issued the statement on Tuesday following talks in Baku between Azerbaijan’s energy minister and Venezuelan oil minister and president of state-run oil company PDVSA, Manuel Quevedo.
The Indian market has been crucial for Venezuela’s economy because it has historically been the second-largest cash-paying customer for the OPEC country’s crude, behind the United States.
Earlier this year, the US imposed heavy sanctions on Venezuela’s oil industry and has pressed India to stop buying Venezuelan oil.
About 1,000 members of the Venezuelan security forces have fled to Colombia since last month, giving up weapons and uniforms as they abandoned the government of Maduro, Colombian authorities say.
Colombia’s foreign ministry released the updated number of Venezuelan police and military personnel who crossed the border, many around the time of a February 23 attempt by Guaido to deliver US-provided humanitarian aid to Venezuela.
A Venezuelan general who is under US sanction for incompetent management of a state medicine programme has fled to Colombia amid growing pressure on Maduro, two sources familiar with the matter tell Reuters.
The US in 2018 sanctioned army General Carlos Rotondaro, former head of a government agency that provided medicine for chronic health conditions, as part of efforts to “highlight the economic mismanagement and endemic corruption” by Maduro’s government.
Rotondaro has left for Colombia and has joined forces with former Venezuelan Chief Prosecutor Luisa Ortega, who is working to have Maduro removed from office, one of the sources says.
Nicolas Maduro is planning a “deep restructuring” of his government, Vice President Delcy Rodriguez has said, as the country recovers from a prolonged blackout amid a power struggle with the opposition.
“President Nicolas Maduro has asked the entire executive Cabinet to put their roles up for review in a deep restructuring of the methods and functions of the Bolivarian government, to protect the fatherland of Bolivar and Chavez from any threat,” Rodriguez writes on Twitter.
Germany’s foreign ministry says a freelance journalist freed in Venezuela months after being jailed as a suspected spy is on his way home.
A Caracas court ordered the conditional release of Billy Six on Friday. He has been ordered to report to the court every 15 days and not to speak to media.
Six had been charged with espionage, accusations his relatives denied.
Russian and US diplomats will meet in Rome on Tuesday to hold talks about the crisis in Venezuela, according to the foreign ministry in Moscow.
Russia is to reiterate its position that a US military intervention in the South American country will be inappropriate, Sergei Ryabkov, Russia’s deputy foreign minister, tells the Interfax news agency.
Consultations are planned with US Special Representative for Venezuela Elliott Abrams, Ryabkov says, adding that Moscow wants Venezuela’s domestic unrest to be resolved through dialogue.
The president of the National Constituent Assembly Diosdado Cabello is leading the March for Victory in Caracas, where the people have taken to the streets to support the government.
Cabello celebrates “the consolidation of a great popular victory,” after the restitution of electricity and potable water in Venezuela.
“The right was wrong again, the people decided to be free and sovereign, no matter what they try, we will resist,” he says.
Cabello also says that the country needs “a real opposition, that is not controlled by the US, that respects the people of Venezuela, that if it goes to an election it recognises the results.”
Large crowds have gathered in the northern city of Valencia to greet Guaido, who plans to tour Venezuela as part of his campaign to oust Maduro.
Guaido post photos on Twitter showing him at a cathedral service and a market.
“Those who work here and those who come to buy what little they can are working people who deserve to live better,” Guaido writes.
“And although now the market [is not a place of] bustle and joy, today our people filled it with a strong cry of hope and freedom,” he adds.
Protests are also planned in the capital, Caracas, and other parts of the country as Guaido seeks to ramp up pressure on Maduro, who says he is the target of a coup plot directed from Washington.
Quienes trabajan aquí y quienes vienen a comprar lo poco que pueden son gente trabajadora que merece vivir mejor.
— Juan Guaidó (@jguaido) March 16, 2019
The Netherlands and the US reached an agreement on Friday to use facilities on the Dutch Caribbean island of Curacao for possible distribution of aid to nearby Venezuela, Curacao’s prime minister said.
The island will only be used for civilian operations to deliver aid, such as food and medicines, to Venezuela if the Venezuelan government explicitly allows it, the Dutch Foreign Ministry said last month.
Curacao Prime Minister Eugene Rhuggenaath said on Twitter the US and the Netherlands signed an agreement detailing the access and use of facilities in Curacao as a humanitarian hub for aid to Venezuela.
After a successful visit of Ambassador @petehoekstra, the United States of America and the Kingdom of the Netherlands signed an agreement, detailing the access and use of our facilities in Curaçao as a humanitarian hub for aid to the people of Venezuela. pic.twitter.com/uNh41xHlVh
— Eugene Rhuggenaath (@EugeneRhugg) March 15, 2019
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has refused to let foreign aid into Venezuela, despite a deep economic crisis marked by shortages of food and medicine and hyperinflation. Maduro has called US-led aid efforts a veiled invasion meant to push him from power.
The Inter-American Development Bank on Friday voted to replace the representative of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro with an economist backed by opposition leader Juan Guaido, in a major setback for the Maduro government.
The decision makes the IADB, Latin America’s largest regional lender, the first financial institution to recognise Guaido and would eventually free up development lending to Venezuela if Maduro steps down.
Guaido, who has been recognised as the OPEC country’s legitimate leader by most Western countries, including the US and many in Latin America, named Harvard University economist Ricardo Hausmann as his representative to the IADB, forcing a vote by the lender’s 48-member board of governors just two weeks before its annual meeting in China.
The US special representative for Venezuela said on Friday that Venezuela’s oil exports have been dropping steadily by roughly 50,000 barrels per month and production is likely to dip below a million barrels a day within a “month or two”.
“They are heading down toward a million now, and in a month or two will be below a million” barrels per day, US envoy Elliott Abrams told a news briefing, adding that the decline seen in recent days could partly be attributed to the blackouts that had crippled the country. “It’s a steady decline,” he added.
The OPEC member’s oil production has dwindled in the last two decades, from more than 3 million bpd at the beginning of the century to between 1.2 million and 1.4 million bpd by late 2018. Most of the crude it produces now is heavy or extra heavy.
American Airlines Group Inc pilots should not fly to Venezuela, an influential pilots union said on Friday, following a travel advisory issued by the US State Department this week.
The department cited civil unrest, poor health and arbitrary arrest and detention of US citizens in Venezuela for issuing the advisory.
“Do not accept any trips to Venezuela,” the Allied Pilots Association said in a statement.
A number of airlines have stopped their flights to the country because of security concerns and disputes over money they say the government owes them. United Airlines ended its flights to Venezuela in 2017.
Military intervention in Venezuela is not the way to resolve the crisis in the country, Colombia’s President Ivan Duque said in an interview in Italian daily Il Sole 24 Ore published on Friday.
“I do not think the solution is a military intervention,” Duque told the newspaper when asked about any proposed intervention, especially by the US.
US President Donald Trump has taken steps to ratchet up pressure on Maduro and bolster Guaido, recognised by the US and more than 50 other countries, including Colombia. But Washington has dismissed as baseless suggestions it is planning to intervene militarily.
Bolivia’s leftist President Evo Morales, a supporter of Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro, said on Friday that European nations should support a dialogue within the country.
Morales, who is on a visit to Greece, said meddling in the domestic affairs of another country never bodes well.
“History has taught that there have been many interventions from the outside, such as the case of Libya and Iraq, and they never offered a solution”, Morales said in translated comments after meeting Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras. “On the contrary it abolished democracy,” he said.
Morales is one of a few Latin American leaders to support the embattled Maduro, whose country has been reeling from a humanitarian crisis.
The US has revoked hundreds of visas from Venezuelans since Monday, nearly a third of which belonged to former diplomats from Venezuela and their families, and is urging US citizens in Venezuela to flee the country days after the US withdrew its diplomats from Venezuela, the State Department said on Thursday.
“Since this Monday … we have revoked 340 visas, 107 of which include visas of Maduro’s former diplomats and their families,” State Department spokesman Robert Palladino told reporters.
The US has been stepping up actions against President Nicolas Maduro’s government as it tries to pressure Maduro to step down.
The US is considering imposing financial sanctions that could prohibit Visa, Mastercard and other financial institutions from processing transactions in Venezuela, a senior Trump administration said on Thursday.
The move, which has not been finalised, would be a significant ratcheting up of pressure on the government of President Nicolas Maduro and his supporters.
“The purpose of these sanctions is to continue to deprive the illegitimate Maduro regime of access to funds and deny their ability to continue stealing from the Venezuelan people,” the official said.
The US has withdrawn all remaining diplomatic personnel from its embassy in Caracas as the crisis in Venezuela deepens.
“Today, all US diplomats remaining in Venezuela departed the country. I know it is a difficult moment for them,” US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement on Thursday.
He said the US remains committed to supporting opposition leader Juan Guaido, who wants to remove Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and hold elections.
The embassy closure is set to worsen already tattered relations with US President Donald Trump, who has not ruled out military intervention to overthrow Maduro as Washington monitors rapidly unfolding events in the oil-rich but crippled South American nation.
The House Foreign Affairs Committee has approved bills intended to step up US pressure against Maduro’s government.
The first bill would add new restrictions on the export of tear gas, riot gear and other ítems that can be used to control crime.
The second measure urges the Trump administration to provide up to $150m in humanitarian aid. Additionally, the State Department and intelligence agencies will be required to provide an assessment of a threat of Russian influence in Venezuela.
The last US diplomats in Venezuela are at the country’s main airport, preparing to head home amid deteriorating ties between Washington and President Maduro, a US official said.
Earlier on Thursday, a convoy was seen leaving the US Embassy in Caracas.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tweeted this week that the diplomats were being withdrawn because they had become a “constraint” on US policy.
The Venezuelan government disputed Pompeo’s account, saying it had instructed the US diplomats to leave.
Diplomats walked out of a UN convention on drugs addressed by Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza, saying his government was illegitimate and did not represent the country.
Dozens of officials from Latin America, as well as the US, Canada and some European countries, including France, left the room in protest as Arreaza took the podium for the meeting of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) in Vienna.
Multiple diplomats, including from Latin America and Europe, staged a walk-out last month during an Arreaza address to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva when he called for direct talks between Maduro and US President Donald Trump about the country’s crisis.
Venezuela’s largest private food supplier says massive looting and vandalism occurred at four facilities in the city of Maracaibo during nationwide power outages, complicating efforts to distribute food and drinks to people in the area.
Empresas Polar says that the distribution centre and a production plant for Pepsi-Cola Venezuela were hit during unrest after blackouts started a week ago. So were a pasta plant and a beer distributor.
It reports the loss of large quantities of food, water and other drinks, vehicles, computers, office furniture and other items.
China has offered to help Venezuela as it faces a crippling multi-day power blackout that President Nicolas Maduro blames on the US.
“China hopes that Venezuela can quickly find the cause of this accident and restore normal power and social order,” foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang says at a regular briefing.
“China is willing to offer assistance and technical support to Venezuela to restore the power system,” Lu says.
Luis Carlos Diaz has been released after being detained for 24 hours.
His release has been confirmed by the National Press Workers Union (SNTP).
Diaz was charged with instigating crime and barred from leaving the country without authorisation SNTP says, he must appear before a court every eight days, the group adds.
— SNTP (@sntpvenezuela) March 13, 2019
“[People in] #Caracas took to the streets in peace, convinced of what we have achieved and what we are about to achieve,” Guaido writes.
“In Bello Monte, El Valle, Santa Monica and Montalban, the people shouted with vigour against oppression, darkness and usurpation.”
#Caracas tomó las calles en paz, convencida de lo que hemos logrado y lo que estamos por lograr.
— Juan Guaidó (@jguaido) March 12, 2019
European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini says no military action from inside or outside Venezuela would be acceptable to resolve the “dramatically” deteriorating situation in the country.
She tells the UN Security Council in New York that “a solution cannot be, and should never be, imposed from the outside.”
But she says that “an international initiative can help build a peaceful and democratic way out of the crisis.”
Mogherini also says the EU is also working with UN agencies “to ensure that humanitarian aid reaches those in need inside and outside of the country following the key principles of humanitarian law, and avoiding any politicisation of the aid delivery.”
Colombian authorities say ten people close to Maduro tried to enter the country Monday seeking relief from the power outage.
According to officials, the leader’s cousin, Argimiro Maduro, along with his spouse, children and extended relatives complained the heat was unbearable and said they wanted to spend five days in Riohacha until service is restored.
Colombia Migration Director Christian Kruger says the relatives were on the no-entry list.
He adds that Colombia will not allow Maduro’s relatives to vacation while “avoiding the reality of a people in agony.”
The US is prepared to impose “very significant” additional sanctions against financial institutions over the situation in Venezuela in the coming days, US special envoy Elliott Abrams says.
Abrams did not elaborate on the fresh measures.
Abrams also told reporters at the State Department that Washington is in talks with other countries about security arrangements for the US embassy in Venezuela after deciding to withdraw its remaining diplomats.
— Department of State (@StateDept) March 12, 2019
“I will always be with the people, facing every imperial aggression and fighting for our right to be a free and sovereign Republic,” Maduro writes on Twitter.
“Be assured that, from this complex and difficult battle, sooner rather than later, we will be victorious. I will never fail you!”
Estaré siempre junto al pueblo, enfrentando cada agresión imperial y luchando por nuestro derecho a ser una República libre y soberana. Tengan la plena seguridad que, de está compleja y difícil batalla, más temprano que tarde, saldremos victoriosos. ¡Jamás les Fallaré! pic.twitter.com/Iugk27go9i
— Nicolás Maduro (@NicolasMaduro) March 12, 2019
A protest is underway to demand the release of Venezuelan journalist Luis Carlos Diaz.
“Workers of the Press and civil society protest before the Public Ministry to demand the release and respect of the rights of journalist and activist Luis Carlos Diaz,” the Committee to Protect Journalists writes on Twitter.
Trabajadores de la Prensa y sociedad civil protestan ante el Ministerio Público para exigir la liberación y eo respeto a los derechos del periodista y activista Luis Carlos Díaz.
— SNTP (@sntpvenezuela) March 12, 2019
“We are deeply concerned about the reported detention of prominent journalist Luis Carlos Diaz by Venezuelan intelligence services, and about his well-being,” Bachelet writes on Twitter.
“The UN human rights technical mission in Caracas has asked the Government for urgent access to Diaz.”
Estoy profundamente preocupada por la presunta detención del reputado periodista @LuisCarlos por parte de los servicios de inteligencia venezolanos, y por su bienestar. La misión técnica de @ONU_derechos que se encuentra en Caracas pidió a las autoridades acceso urgente a Díaz.
— Michelle Bachelet (@mbachelet) March 12, 2019
Venezuela’s state prosecutor says he will investigate opposition leader Juan Guaido for “sabotage” as a nationwide power blackout entered its fifth day.
Public prosecutor Tarek William Saab tells reporters in Caracas an investigation was being opened “against the citizen Juan Guaido for his alleged involvement in the sabotage of the Venezuelan electricity system.”
The Venezuelan Minister of Communication, Jorge Rodriguez says that “electric service in the country is almost restored.”
“At this time almost all of the electricity supply has been restored throughout the national territory,” Rodriguez says, according to local reports.
Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza says US diplomats on Venezuelan soil must leave within three days after talks broke down over maintaining diplomatic “interest sections” in the two countries.
“The presence on Venezuelan soil of these officials represents a risk for the peace, unity and stability of the country,” the government says in a statement.
The US State Department had announced on Monday it will withdraw its staff from Venezuela this week, saying their presence had become “a constraint on US policy.”
Comunicado Oficial sobre la decisión del Gobierno Bolivariano de Venezuela de dar por terminadas las conversaciones con EEUU para el establecimiento de oficinas de intereses. El personal diplomático estadounidense debe abandonar territorio venezolano en las próximas 72 horas: pic.twitter.com/B6cnpHhSyE
— Jorge Arreaza M (@jaarreaza) March 12, 2019
Venezuelan authorities should immediately release journalist Luis Carlos Diaz, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) says.
“Without electricity, much of the Venezuelan public is already deprived of access to information from TV, radio, and the internet in the midst of an emergency. Harassing and jailing journalists will only exacerbate the crisis,” CPJ Central and South America Programme Coordinator Natalie Southwick declares.
Venezuelan authorities should immediately release radio journalist Luis Carlos Díaz, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.https://t.co/p8HOUqNypb
— CPJ Américas (@CPJAmericas) March 12, 2019
Russia’s top oil producer Rosneft says that US statements that it has violated US sanctions in its Venezuela activities were “groundless accusations”.
Pompeo said this week Rosneft was defying US sanctions by buying oil from Venezuelan state oil firm PDVSA.
Rosneft says it is not involved in politics and was conducting “purely commercial operations” in line with international law. It says any contracts were secured before the latest US sanctions were imposed in January and it might seek legal action to defend itself if necessary.
Venezuelans authorities have detained radio journalist Luis Carlos Diaz.
Family members lost contact with Diaz at around 5:30pm local time when he was detained by intelligence service agents, according to news reports.
During a television show, Diosdado Cabello shows a video clip of Diaz and accuses him of “sabotage” saying that he has played a role in the electricity outage.
Diaz is reportedly now being held in El Helicoide political prison.
During his television show the influential pro-Maduro politician Diosdado Cabello showed a video clip of Díaz and accused him of "sabotage," alleging that Díaz played a role in the electricity outage that has left some parts of Venezuela without power https://t.co/DcPUo5mC42
— CPJ Américas (@CPJAmericas) March 12, 2019
The US is to withdraw all remaining diplomatic personnel from Venezuela this week, the US State Department has announced.
“Like the January 24 decision to withdraw all dependents and reduce embassy staff to a minimum, this decision reflects the deteriorating situation in Venezuela as well as the conclusion that the presence of U.S. diplomatic staff at the embassy has become a constraint on US policy,” the State Department says.
It did not say on what day the personnel would be withdrawn from the embassy in Caracas.
The U.S. will withdraw all remaining personnel from @usembassyve this week. This decision reflects the deteriorating situation in #Venezuela as well as the conclusion that the presence of U.S. diplomatic staff at the embassy has become a constraint on U.S. policy.
— Secretary Pompeo (@SecPompeo) March 12, 2019
Juan Guaido has called for marches on Tuesday, at 3:00pm local time, to protest the electrical blackout that hit Venezuela.
Por eso, mañana a las 3:00PM, convocamos a la calle a todos el Pueblo de Venezuela.
Todos, organizados con nuestros vecinos, salgamos a las calles y avenidas más cercanas por la conquista de nuestros derechos.
— Juan Guaidó (@jguaido) March 11, 2019
The US has sanctioned a Russian bank over its alleged dealings with Venezuela’s state-owned oil company PDVSA.
Moscow-based Evrofinance Mosnarbank, which is jointly owned by Russian and Venezuelan state-owned companies, is now in a list of sanctioned individuals and entities due to its alleged attempts to circumvent US restrictions placed on PDVSA by offering the company financial, material and technological support.
“This action demonstrates that the US will take action against foreign financial institutions that sustain the illegitimate Maduro regime and contribute to the economic collapse and humanitarian crisis plaguing the people of Venezuela,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin says in a statement.
Much of Venezuela, including parts of the capital Caracas, remains without power for a fifth day, crimping vital oil exports and leaving people struggling to obtain water and food.
Maduro again ordered the suspension of classes and the working day, as he had on Friday.
The lack of electricity has aggravated a crisis in Venezuelan hospitals, also lacking investment and maintenance in addition to the shortage of medicines.
Dr Julio Castro, of the non-governmental group Doctors for Health, said in a Twitter message on Sunday night that 21 people have died in public hospitals since the start of the blackout.
Venezuela’s state-run PDVSA oil firm has been unable to resume exports at Jose port, the nation’s primary crude-export terminal, following last week’s widespread power outage, according to people familiar with the matter.
PDVSA has launched a contingency plan to try and restore power, according to one of the people.
The country’s crude upgraders, which convert up to 700,000 barrels per day of Orinoco Belt heavy oil into exportable grades, also are operating at minimum levels due to the lack of power, the people said.
On February 24, the US administration accused Nicolas Maduro’s government of torching a convoy of humanitarian aid amid a civil plight.
Senator Marco Rubio accused Maduro of “committing a crime,” while White House National Security Adviser John Bolton said the Venezuelan president had sent “masked thugs” to set the cargo alight.
The whole world saw the regime use security forces & gangs to injure & kill unarmed civilians.
The whole world saw them set fire to 3 trucks carrying food & other humanitarian aid.
They will soon realize just how badly they overplayed their hand today.
— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) February 24, 2019
But the New York Times (NYT) has published footage that suggests that a Molotov cocktail thrown by an anti-government protester was the trigger for the blaze.
“At one point, a homemade bomb made from a bottle is hurled toward the police, who were blocking a bridge connecting Colombia and Venezuela to prevent the aid trucks from getting through,” the report reads.
“But the rag used to light the Molotov cocktail separates from the bottle, flying toward the aid truck instead. Half a minute later, that truck is in flames,” it adds.
The media outlet is not the first one to debunk the claim that Maduro was behind the fire.
On February 24, several independent journalists pointed out that a different situation took place:
I did not see any Venezuelan government forces set fire to US aid trucks on the Colombian side of the border. And neither did you. Actually, the evidence so far is pointing in the other direction. https://t.co/AVBPYtFMiR
— Max Blumenthal (@MaxBlumenthal) February 24, 2019
Venezuela is suspending school and business activities on Monday amid a continuing blackout, Information Minister Jorge Rodriguez says.
This is the second such cancellation since the power went out last week.
Guaido says a state of emergency should be declared in the country over the ongoing power outages.
In parts of Venezuela, there has been no electricity since Thursday evening. The restoration of the electricity supply is progressing slowly and keeps suffering setbacks.
Guaido says the National Assembly, which is controlled by the opposition, should declare a national emergency in a special meeting.
“We can not turn our faces to the tragedy that our country is experiencing.” Guaido writes.
“I have called for an extraordinary session in the National Assembly tomorrow, where I will request, in my capacity as president, to decree a state of national emergency, based on article 338 of our constitution.”
No podemos voltear la cara ante la tragedia que vive nuestro país. He convocado para mañana a una sesión extraordinaria de la @AsambleaVE, donde solicitaré, en mi condición de Presidente (E), decretar Estado de Emergencia Nacional, con base en el artículo 338 de nuestra CRBV.
— Juan Guaidó (@jguaido) March 10, 2019
There are no signs Maduro is open to negotiations to end the political impasse with Juan Guaido, Washington’s envoy for Venezuela says.
Abrams, however, plays down any possibility that the Venezuelan president was ready to talk about his exit. “From everything we have seen, Maduro’s tactic is to stay put,” Abrams says.
Abrams has met with Russian representatives to the US about Moscow’s support for Maduro.
“The Russians are not happy with Maduro for all the obvious reasons,” Abrams says. “In a couple of conversations, I have been told they have given advice to Maduro and he doesn’t take it.”
“They continue to support him and there is no indication that I have seen that they are telling him it’s time to bring this to an end,” he says, adding: “There could come a point where the Russians reach a conclusion that the regime is really unsalvageable.”
Venezuelans wake up to the fourth day of a nationwide blackout, leaving residents concerned about the impacts of the lack of electricity on the country’s health, communications and transport systems.
The blackout, which began Thursday afternoon, keeps increasing frustration among Venezuelans already suffering widespread food and medicine shortages.
Food is rotting in refrigerators, people walk for miles to work with the Caracas subway down, and relatives abroad anxiously wait for updates from family members with telephone and internet signals intermittent.
Hospitals are also struggling, Julio Castro, who leads an NGO called Doctors for Health, says that at least 13 people have died amid the blackout. His statement could not be independently verified.
“What can you do without electricity?” says Leonel Gutierrez, a 47-year-old systems technician, as he carried his six-month-old daughter on his way to buy groceries. “The food we have has spoiled.”
US Senator Marco Rubio, who has been accused by the government of being responsible for the blackout suffered in Venezuela, writes on Twitter that what is happening in the country is like “a horror movie”.
Reports tonight out of #Venezuela are like a horror movie.
Total darkness. No electricity,running water or cell phone coverage. Food spoiling. Patients dying in hospitals. Looting of homes & businesses. Armed #MaduroRegime gangs terrorizing people.
— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) March 10, 2019
Maduro says that his country’s recent complete electrical failure was caused by “an international cyber attack.”
“I will tell this for the first time,” Maduro tells a crowd in Caracas.
“We are in the process of investigation, and correcting it all because there are many infiltrators attacking from within the electrical company.”
“The right wing, together with the empire, has stabbed the electricity system, and we are trying to cure it soon.”
The president also says Guaido is a puppet of Washington and dismisses his claim to the presidency as an effort by the administration of Trump to control Venezuela’s oil wealth.
El imperialismo estadounidense desconoce la fuerza de este pueblo aguerrido que lleva en sus venas la sangre de los Libertadores de América. Hemos superado todas las agresiones con coraje revolucionario, y seguiremos de pie; firmes defendiendo la soberanía de nuestra Patria. pic.twitter.com/Jb6663vPhK
— Nicolás Maduro (@NicolasMaduro) March 10, 2019
Juan Guaido calls on citizens to keep united and protesting.
“We will continue to mobilise,” local media reports.
“We have to seize [more] spaces, as we did today in the Libertador municipality (…) We have to [do it] in a peaceful way, we must unite and come together,” he says.
“I come to ask for your trust. We can not be victims of misinformation,” he adds.
Guaido warns that hard days will come. “The [government] will try to divide us.”
“They want to demobilise us, it’s up to us. Let’s not fall, the game is to be united, together.”
As government supporters take out to the streets in support of Nicolas Maduro, he writes on Twitter it’s time for the US to go home.
“Today when the US empire, in its desperation to get hold of our natural resources, intensifies its brutal aggressions against the Homeland, we firmly stand up to defend our land and scream with force: Yankee Go Home! We are Anti-imperialists!,” he writes on Twitter.
Hoy, cuando el imperio de los EE.UU., en su desespero por echarle mano a nuestros recursos naturales, intensifica sus brutales agresiones contra la Patria, nos plantamos con firmeza para defender nuestra tierra y gritar con fuerza: ¡Yankee Go Home! ¡Somos Antiimperialistas! pic.twitter.com/eGeU3qHZqB
— Nicolás Maduro (@NicolasMaduro) March 9, 2019
Opposition protesters have accessed a part of western Caracas after “pushing hard.”
“Very early in the morning there were lots of tensions because the police wouldn’t allow people here,” Al Jazeera’s Teresa Bo reports from western Caracas.
“After pushing hard protesters took over the streets.
“The government has been really careful in not repressing people, especially after the US has threatened with serious actions if they touch people like Juan Guaido or protesters,” Bo says.
Riot police are blocking protesters in western Caracas as hundreds of people are taking to the streets.
“We want to march! Yes, we can!” the opposition protesters are heard shouting, as riot police prevent them from accessing the area where their demonstration is due to take place.
The ruling Socialist Party has called for a march near the presidential palace in central-west Caracas to protest against what it calls US imperialism, which has levied crippling oil sanctions on Maduro’s government in efforts to cut off its sources of funding.
“Today we are – more than ever before – anti-imperialists,” Maduro writes on Twitter.
“We will never give up.”
For his part, Guaido also writes on Twitter: “They think they can scare us, but the people and the street will surprise them.
“They intend to wear us down, but they can’t contain a nation that is determined to stop the usurpation.
“Today we will show them in the streets.”
Creen que van a meternos miedo hoy, pero se van a llevar una sorpresa de Pueblo y de calle.
Pretenden jugar al desgaste, pero ya no tienen manera de contener a un Pueblo que está decidido a concretar el cese de la usurpación.
Y hoy lo vamos a demostrar en las calles. Atentos.
— Juan Guaidó (@jguaido) March 9, 2019
Al Jazeera’s Teresa Bo, reporting from Caracas, says opposition supporters have started gathering in western Caracas to protest against Maduro’s policies.
“It’s an extremely tense situation because the Bolivarian National Guard and the police are just about half away from the block [away] … and people are screaming on their faces, telling them to join in, in their fight against Maduro,” she says.
Thousands of Venezuelans are expected to take to the streets on Saturday as Guaido cranks up the pressure on Maduro.
Both men, who are locked in a bitter power struggle for the right to lead the oil-rich South American nation, have asked their supporters to fill the streets of Caracas and other cities.
“The US Empire, once again, underestimates the conscience and determination of the Venezuelan people,” Maduro writes on Twitter.
“I assure you, that every attempt at imperial aggression will be met with a strong response.”
El imperio de los EE.UU., una vez más, subestima la conciencia y determinación del pueblo venezolano. Les aseguro, que cada intento de agresión imperial se encontrará con una respuesta contundente de las y los patriotas que amamos y defendemos, con valentía, nuestra Patria.
— Nicolás Maduro (@NicolasMaduro) March 9, 2019
Guaido also makes a call on Twitter:
“Tomorrow, I call on the Venezuelan people to make a huge statement in the streets against the usurper, corrupt and incapable regime that has plunged our country into darkness.”
“We return to the streets and we won’t leave until we reach the goal,” writes the 35-year-old National Assembly leader.
¡Venezuela a la calle!
Mañana convoco a todo el pueblo venezolano a expresarnos masivamente en las calles contra el régimen usurpador, corrupto e incapaz que ha puesto a oscuras a nuestro país.
El cese de la usurpación será el cese de la oscuridad.
¡Vamos Venezuela! pic.twitter.com/cmEnO60KBL
— Juan Guaidó (@jguaido) March 9, 2019
A blackout is reported to have hit 22 of 23 states, striking during the peak of evening rush hour on Thursday.
By early Friday afternoon, residents and state broadcaster VTV report that power is starting to return to parts of Caracas. Neither Socialist Party officials nor state power company Corpoelec has provided further updates on the situation.
“Today the [government says] the blackout, of more than 15 hours, is the product of external sabotage,” Guaido says on Twitter.
“Sabotage is stealing money from Venezuelans. Sabotage is burning food and medicine. Sabotage is stealing elections.”
Hoy declaran que el apagón, de más de 15 horas, es producto de un saboteo externo.
Saboteo es la corrupción, saboteo es que no permitieron elecciones, saboteo es que bloquearon la entrada de comida y medicinas.
El único saboteo es el del usurpador a todo el pueblo Venezuela. pic.twitter.com/A3dh0vWI7N
— Juan Guaidó (@jguaido) March 8, 2019
Member countries of the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB) will vote the next week on accepting a representative from Fuaido to the board of the regional lender, bank officials say.
The 48-member board of governors will have until Friday, March 15, to vote on the issue. It is not clear what would happen to Maduro’s representative on the board.
Guaido, who has the support of 57 countries, has named Harvard University economist Ricardo Hausmann as the country’s representative to the IADB.
Former Venezuelan Vice President Tareck El Aissami has been criminally charged in New York federal court, accused of using his office to aid international drug traffickers.
El Aissami and a Venezuelan businessman, Samark Jose Lopez Bello, were charged on Friday with violating the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act and US Treasury Department sanctions.
US Attorney Geoffrey Berman said El Aissami, now Venezuela’s minister of industry and national production, hired US companies to provide private jets in violation of sanctions.
Angel Melendez, who heads New York’s US Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations, said El Aissami and Lopez Bello are now wanted in New York.
The Trump administration is granting US companies more time to comply with sanctions barring transactions with Venezuela’s state-run oil company.
The Treasury Department said firms have until May 10 to wind down and close their business with oil company PDVSA.
PDVSA was hit with US sanctions on January 28 in a step that caught some American companies by surprise. The sanctions had the effect of stranding several oil tankers at and near Venezuelan ports because their cargoes were unable to be legally paid for.
Treasury said on Friday the extension will allow certain financial contracts agreed upon before January 28 to be completed.
The US will not use force to deliver humanitarian aid to Venezuela, US President Donald Trump’s special representative for Venezuela said on Friday, after Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s forces blocked aid convoys at the border last month.
“The US government has said that we will not use force to deliver that aid, and the Colombian government has said the same thing, so obviously we agree with that view and would not be involved in any actions that would be contrary to that view,” the envoy, Elliott Abrams, told reporters.
Venezuela’s government shut schools and suspended working hours on Friday after the capital Caracas and other major cities awoke without electricity due to a problem that struck the South American country’s main hydroelectric plant on Thursday.
President Nicolas Maduro “has suspended classes and the working day today in order to facilitate the efforts for the recovery of electric service in the country,” wrote Vice President Delcy Rodríguez on her Twitter account.
The UN refugee agency said it is opening its first reception centre in Colombia to support people leaving neighbouring Venezuela.
UNHCR spokesman Andrej Mahecic said the centre set up along with Colombian authorities in the border city of Maicao will open on Friday and can initially take in up to 350 people, with “possibility to grow” in the future.
The Geneva-based agency said on Friday that hundreds of people including children, the elderly and those with medical conditions are “forced to live on the streets” because of a lack of shelter in Maicao.
UNHCR said 2.7 million Venezuelans have left their crisis-ridden country since 2015, and Colombia is the country most affected by the outflow, with more than 1.1 million.
The Chinese government’s top diplomat issued a stern warning on Friday against interfering in Venezuela and imposing sanctions, saying history offered a clear lesson about not “following the same old disastrous road”.
China has repeatedly called for outsiders not to interfere in Venezuela’s internal affairs and has stuck by embattled President Nicolas Maduro.
State Councillor Wang Yi, responding to a question on whether China still recognised Maduro or had contacts with the opposition, said the sovereignty and independence of Latin American countries should be respected.
A major power outage hit crisis-stricken Venezuela on Thursday, according to Reuters witnesses, a problem the government of President Nicolas Maduro quickly blamed on “sabotage” at a hydroelectric dam that provides much of the country’s power.
Electricity outages are frequent in Venezuela, where the economy is collapsing under hyperinflation, with chronic shortages of food and medicine and mass emigration of more than three million citizens.
Critics say corruption and underinvestment have left the country’s power grid unable to function, while Maduro said the problems are intentionally created by political adversaries.
Local media and Twitter users reported that the outage was affecting the capital of Caracas as well as 15 of the country’s 23 states. A reporter for state television described it as a “national blackout.”
US President Donald Trump’s special representative for Venezuela pledged on Thursday that Washington would “expand the net” of sanctions on the South American nation, including more on banks supporting President Nicolas Maduro’s government.
“There will be more sanctions on financial institutions that are carrying out the orders of the Maduro regime,” Elliott Abrams told a US Senate subcommittee hearing.
Venezuela’s opposition leader Juan Guaido said in an interview the expulsion of the German ambassador by Caracas was a threat against Germany, Der Spiegel magazine reported.
“This action represents a threat against Germany,” Guaido was quoted as saying.
German ambassador Daniel Kriener was expelled two days after he and diplomats from other embassies welcomed home Guaido at Caracas’ airport.
The opposition leader also urged European countries to increase sanctions against the government of Nicolas Maduro.
The European Union said it was disappointed that Venezuela’s government has ordered the German ambassador to leave the country after he expressed support for opposition leader Juan Guaido.
European Commission spokeswoman Maja Kocijancic said on Thursday that the EU wants to continue its dialogue with all political forces in the country.
“Despite the tense and complex political context, the EU has been keen to maintain lines of communication with all key parties including the government,” Kocijancic said. “In that respect, the EU hopes that this decision can be reconsidered.”
Germany’s foreign minister says the presence of foreign diplomats at the Caracas airport on Monday helped prevent the arrest of Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido.
Heiko Maas said on Thursday he expressly asked Germany’s ambassador to Venezuela, Daniel Kriener, to join other envoys at the airport.
He told reporters in Berlin on that “there was information that [Guaido] was meant to be arrested there, and I think the presence of various ambassadors contributed to helping prevent this arrest.”
On Wednesday, the government of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro announced it was giving Kriener 48 hours to leave the country, a move seen as a response to Germany’s support for Guaido.
A US journalist detained by Venezuelan security services was released after more than 12 hours in custody.
Venezuelan freed American reporter Cody Weddle following his arrest in the morning.
Miami television station WPLG Local 10, one of the outlets for which Weddle worked, said he was at the main Caracas-area airport waiting for a US-bound flight.
Weddle, who worked in Venezuela for several years as a correspondent for a variety of US media, “has been released after being detained by Venezuelan authorities”, the network announced on Twitter.
The release was also announced by Senator Marco Rubio, a strident critic of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.
“We know that members of the military intelligence directorate appeared at his home this morning to ask him questions about his coverage on the border,” said Carlos Correa from the NGO Espacio Publico.
The US demands the “immediate release” of an American journalist who is reported to have been detained in Caracas.
Cody Weddle has worked in Venezuela for several years as a correspondent for a variety of US media, including ABC News and the Miami Herald.
Kimberly Breier, the US assistant secretary of state for hemispheric affairs, says that the State Department is “aware of and deeply concerned” by the reports that an American journalist was detained.
.@StateDept is aware of and deeply concerned with reports that another U.S. journalist has been detained in #Venezuela by #Maduro, who prefers to stifle the truth rather than face it. Being a journalist is not a crime. We demand the journalist’s immediate release, unharmed.
— Michael G. Kozak (@WHAAsstSecty) March 6, 2019
Venezuela’s state-run oil company PDVSA declared a maritime emergency on Tuesday after German shipping firm Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement (BSM) disclosed plans to return ten tankers over unpaid fees, according to a document from the state-run firm, Reuters reports.
BSM, operator of a portion of PDVSA’s tanker fleet, last month confirmed its crews would abandon the tankers Rio Arauca and Parnaso, which were held in Portugal over unpaid fees to a shipyard and port authority.
A third vessel also operated by BSM, the Icaro, separately was seised in Curacao by a group of shipping firms claiming unpaid bills from PDVSA.
The US is set to revoke the visas of 77 people associated with Maduro, US Vice President Mike Pence says, adding to a list of 49 others whose visas were revoked on Friday.
“Today the State Department is announcing that the US will revoke 77 visas, including many officials of the Maduro regime and their families,” Pence says in a speech.
Berlin says Venezuela’s expulsion of the German ambassador over his backing of Juan Guaido only aggravated the situation.
“It’s an incomprehensible decision which aggravates the situation,” Germany’s Foreign Minister Heiko Maas says in a statement.
“Our support for Guaido remains unbroken, ambassador Kriener is doing an excellent job,” he adds.
The government has given the German ambassador 48 hours to leave the country after he expressed support for Guaido.
Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza tweets a statement saying ambassador Daniel Kriener interfered in Venezuela’s internal affairs and allied himself with “extremist sectors” of the opposition.
Venezuela considers it unacceptable that a foreign diplomat would take on “a public role more appropriate to that of a political leader,” the statement reads.
El Gobierno de la República Bolivariana de Venezuela hace del conocimiento público la decisión de declarar persona non grata al Embajador de la República Federal de Alemania, Daniel Kriener, ante sus recurrentes actos de injerencia en los asuntos internos del país. Comunicado: pic.twitter.com/qqo6FyKiM0
— Jorge Arreaza M (@jaarreaza) March 6, 2019
White House national security adviser John Bolton warns foreign banks and other financial institutions that they will face US sanctions for “illegitimate” transactions that benefit Maduro and his network.
“The United States is putting foreign financial institutions on notice that they will face sanctions for being involved in facilitating illegitimate transactions that benefit Nicolas Maduro and his corrupt network,” Bolton says in a statement released by the White House.
Venezuela’s National Assembly will discuss today the economic crisis hitting the country and the clashes that took place in an indigenous community in Kumarakapay in southern Venezuela, two weeks ago, when humanitarian aid was expected to enter the country.
Residents say that an indigenous couple were killed and at least 15 people were injured.
Guaido is also expected to present a report of his tour in South America.
Propuesta de Orden del Día. Sesión Ordinaria. pic.twitter.com/32YLNM7Ooc
— Juan Guaidó (@jguaido) March 6, 2019
Sanctions have “exacerbated” the crisis in Venezuela, the UN human rights chief says after the US warned it may expand the measures it has imposed targeting Maduro’s government.
“Venezuela clearly illustrates the way violations of civil and political rights – including failure to uphold fundamental freedoms, and the independence of key institutions – can accentuate a decline of economic and social rights,” rights chief Michelle Bachelet says.
“This situation has been exacerbated by sanctions, and the resulting current political, economic, social and institutional crisis is alarming … I will be further discussing this human rights situation, among other countries, on March 20,” she adds.
Nicolas Maduro said he would defeat a “crazed minority” determined to destabilise the country in his first public comment since Guaido returned to the country.
Maduro called on supporters to attend “anti-imperialist” demonstrations on March 9, coinciding with an opposition march announced by Guaido.
He expressed defiance towards opposition forces, belittling a “minority of opportunists and cowards” and vowing to “stop them in their tracks”.
“The crazed minority continues in their bitterness. We are going to defeat them, be absolutely sure,” said Maduro.
“We are on the right side of history,” he added, using the same words previously used by Guaido referring to the opposition.
The president says Venezuela is a victim of a US-led economic war and accuses Guaido of leading a coup orchestrated by the American government. He has vowed the opposition leader will “face justice”.
Maduro’s vice president, Delcy Rodriguez, told Russian state media Guaido is “trying to seize power” upon the “direct order” of Washington.
The US is considering imposing new sanctions on Venezuela to pressure Maduro’s government to give up power, US National Security Adviser John Bolton said.
“We’re looking at new sanctions, new measures to tighten our grip on Maduro’s financial wherewithal, to deny his regime the money that they need to stay in power,” Bolton told Fox Business Network.
Maduro has described opposition to his rule as an attempted coup by the US and its allies.
Washington’s top envoy for Venezuela, Elliott Abrams, said it was hard to see a role for Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro in the building of a “democratic Venezuela”.
“If he wanted to build a democratic Venezuela, he had the opportunity to do so, but he did not,” Abrams told reporters. “It is extremely difficult to see how he could play a positive role in a democratic election,” he said, adding that it was ultimately up to Venezuelans to decide Maduro’s future role.
Abrams also said that imposing US secondary sanctions against non-US citizens or entities tied to the Maduro government was “clearly a possibility”, although he said a decision had not been made on taking such a step.
Guaido speaks during a meeting with workers and unions representatives in Caracas.
Al Jazeera’s Manuel Rapalo reporting from Cucuta says Guaido has wasted no time since returning from a tour of several South American countries.
“Guaido is meeting with public sector employees,” Rapalo says.
“They are a very important group, he sees them as traditionally loyal to President Nicolas Maduro, so the goal here is to win over their support.”
“[One of the] main points that he has been making to these public sector employees … is securing legislation that can guarantee that their jobs will still exist once there is a transitional government in place.”
“He also wants a census, and get an idea of exactly how many public sector employees there are in Venezuela … and he wants to call for a national strike.. to continue this momentum … and continue the pressure against the government of Nicolas Maduro. “
Maduro remembers the late President Hugo Chavez.
“Comandante Chavez, six years have passed [since your departure] and it still hurts … thanks to your teachings and your example, today we continue in a permanent struggle against the enemies who tried to silence your voice so many times. You will live forever, in every victory!” Maduro writes on Twitter.
Comandante Chávez, han transcurrido 6 años de tu siembra y aún duele, como ayer, tu partida. Gracias a tus enseñanzas y a tu ejemplo, hoy continuamos en lucha permanente contra los enemigos que intentaron apagar tu voz tantas veces. ¡Vivirás por siempre en cada victoria! pic.twitter.com/SXDRPBTDvL
— Nicolás Maduro (@NicolasMaduro) March 5, 2019
Juan Guaido will meet with workers, public employees and unions representatives at the Colegio de Ingenieros (Engineers Association).
“We will meet with our public employees,” Guaido writes on Twitter.
“We are going to take the first steps to recover our bureaucracy and continue building the capacities inside and outside our country that [will] allow us to stop the usurpation, the transitional government and free elections.”
Nos reuniremos con nuestros empleados públicos.
Vamos a dar los primeros pasos para recuperar nuestra burocracia y seguir construyendo las capacidades dentro y fuera de nuestro país que nos permitan el cese de la usurpación, el gobierno de transición y elecciones libres.
— Juan Guaidó (@jguaido) March 5, 2019
Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel remembers Hugo Chavez, who died six years ago.
“The children of the Bolivarian Revolution today pay tribute to him, fighting bravely”, he writes on his Twitter account.
Seis años de sentida ausencia del mejor amigo de #Cuba. Los hijos de la Revolución Bolivariana hoy le rinden tributo, peleando bravamente. En ellos #Chávez vive, con su amor y su coraje, #HastaLaVictoriaSIempre #ManosFueraDeVenezuela#SomosCuba #SomosContinuidad 🇨🇺🇻🇪 pic.twitter.com/luuZWhTNnz
— Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez (@DiazCanelB) March 5, 2019
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is stressing that the only way the political conflict in Venezuela can be resolved is through political dialogue.
Dujarric says UN officials “obviously remain very concerned about the situation in Venezuela.”
And he says it’s important that “all political actors in Venezuela and abroad make all efforts to lower tensions.”
Juan Guaido spoke to supporters at a Caracas demonstration after he returned to the country despite warnings he might face arrest.
Guaido was greeted with cheers and applause at the rally of several thousand people in the Las Mercedes neighbourhood in the Venezuelan capital. He told the demonstrators: “We’re much stronger than ever.”
“Guaido arrives to a hero’s welcome,” Vanessa Neuman a Latin American analyst tells Al Jazeera.
“Guaido [has] done what didn’t seem possible just a few months ago, to unify the Venezuelan opposition, the political parties and the people, to inspire hope … it also really puts the regime on the back foot, they had said they would arrest him, but … if they arrest him now there will be a massive uprising … and by not arresting him, Maduro looks weaker than ever,” she explains.
Guaido calls for a march on Saturday to increase pressure on Nicolas Maduro.
The opposition leader announced he is already in the country.
“We entered Venezuela, we are free citizens, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Already feeling the sun in La Guaira,” he wrote on Twitter.
Entramos a Venezuela como ciudadanos libres, que nadie nos diga lo contrario.
Ya sintiendo mi Sol de La Guaira, el brio del pueblo que nos esperó aquí.
— Juan Guaidó (@jguaido) March 4, 2019
Vice President Mike Pence says the safe return of Guaido is a high priority for the US.
“Any threats, violence, or intimidation against him will not be tolerated.”
.@JGuaido’s safe return to Venezuela is of the highest importance to the U.S. Any threats, violence, or intimidation against him will not be tolerated & will be met with swift response. The world is watching – Interim President Guaido must be allowed to re-enter Venezuela safely.
— Vice President Mike Pence (@VP) March 4, 2019
Guaido has returned to Venezuela after a tour of South American nations, according to local television.
“Back in our beloved country! Venezuela, we just passed through immigration and we will now head to where our people are,” he tweeted just after arriving.
Ya en nuestra tierra amada! Venezuela, acabamos de pasar migración y nos movilizaremos a dónde está nuestro pueblo!#VamosJuntosALaCalle
— Juan Guaidó (@jguaido) March 4, 2019
Several European ambassadors who support his campaign for a change of leadership in Venezuela were at the airport waiting for him.
Flag-waving Venezuelans turn out to await the return of Guaido, who is defying the threat of arrest as he embarks on a renewed push against Maduro.
“He’s going to enter the country under their noses,” says Maria Garrido, 62, attending the rally from El Cafetal, “That boy has proven to be smarter than the whole government.”
Antonio Rangel, an unemployed engineer who now sells bread and sweets to support his family, is hopeful.
“The difference is that now we have hope. I’m not tired, I’m not defeated, the only thing I’m tired of is Maduro and his friends,” Rangel tells Al Jazeera. “They need to leave.”
11:02 Así se encuentra la Plaza Alfredo Sadel tras la convocatoria de la AN a una concentración en apoyo a Juan Guaidó. pic.twitter.com/tYWdnfnijC
— Héctor Antolínez (@HectorAntolinez) March 4, 2019
Journalist Hector Antolinez tweets from Caracas: This is Alfredo Sadel square, [people are here] in support of Juan Guaido.
Reporting by Erika Fiorucci from Caracas
Guaido says he is on his way home.
Guaido tweeted an audio message announcing he is heading back to Venezuela, though details about his exact whereabouts remain a mystery.
“Venezuelan brothers, the moment you hear this message, I will be on my way home, our home,” Guaido says.
Voy camino a casa. Regreso a seguir trabajando por nuestra ruta y a fortalecer la presión interna que nos permita liberar a nuestro país.
— Juan Guaidó (@jguaido) March 4, 2019
The Trump administration threatens to put additional financial restrictions on Cuba’s military and intelligence services amid the political turmoil in Venezuela.
Cuba’s role in usurping democracy and fomenting repression in Venezuela is clear. That’s why the U.S. will continue to tighten financial restrictions on Cuba’s military and intel services. The region’s democracies should condemn the Cuba regime.
— John Bolton (@AmbJohnBolton) March 4, 2019
Maduro welcomed Carnival season on Twitter, writing: “I invite Venezuelan families to enjoy the festivities and the natural beauty that our beloved Venezuela offers us.”
— Nicolás Maduro (@NicolasMaduro) March 4, 2019
US National Security Adviser John Bolton tweets that threats or action against Guaido “will be met with a strong and significant response from the United States and the international community.”
Venezuelan Interim President Juan Guaido has announced his planned return to Venezuela. Any threats or acts against his safe return will be met with a strong and significant response from the United States and the international community.
— John Bolton (@AmbJohnBolton) March 4, 2019
Guaido calls for nationwide demonstrations on Monday to coincide with his planned return to Venezuela.
On Sunday he tweets that Venezuelans should monitor his official announcements and that he would provide details about meeting points for supporters. He says they should gather across the country at 11:00am (3:00 GMT).
Translation: Tomorrow morning, at 11 am [let’s go out to] the streets!
It is in the midst of uncertainty when faith becomes more powerful. # 4MVzlaALaCalle
¡Mañana lunes, 11 am. a la calle!
En medio de la incertidumbre cuando más poderosa se vuelve la fe.#4MVzlaALaCalle
— Juan Guaidó (@jguaido) March 4, 2019
Russia will do all possible to prevent a US military intervention in Venezuela, the TASS news agency quotes the speaker of Russia’s upper house of parliament as saying on Sunday.
“We are very much concerned that the USA could carry out any provocations to shed blood, to find a cause and reasons for intervention in Venezuela,” Valentina Matvienko tells Venezuelan Vice President Delcy Rodriguez in Moscow.
Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido says he will return home after a visit to Ecuador and calls for new protests next week against President Nicolas Maduro, whose government has banned him from travelling abroad.
Guaido has spent the past few days touring between Latin American countries to muster support for his campaign to form a transition government and oust Maduro, whom he denounces as an illegitimate usurper.
“I announce my return to the country and I call for mobilisations in all the national territory on Monday and Tuesday,” Guaido wrote on Twitter.
Anuncio mi regreso al país y la convocatoria de movilizaciones en todo el territorio nacional para este lunes y martes.
Difundamos este mensaje y estén muy atentos a nuestro llamado a través de las redes oficiales. #VamosBien
— Juan Guaidó (@jguaido) March 3, 2019
The US revoked the visas of 49 individuals aligned with Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, the State Department said on Friday.
The State Department said the restrictions applied to “individuals responsible for undermining Venezuela’s democracy” and that the policy would be applied to “numerous” Maduro-aligned officials and their families”.
The move came hours after the US sanctioned six Venezuelan security officials over blocking aid from getting into the country.
Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido will visit Ecuador on Saturday, Ecuadorian President Lenin Moreno said on Friday.
The meeting is part of Guaido’s tour of sympathetic regional allies that also includes meetings with heads of state in Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina.
He conversado con el presidente @jguaido. Le he invitado a Ecuador para que reciba el afecto y respaldo de un pueblo que ama la democracia.
— Lenín Moreno (@Lenin) March 1, 2019
TRANSLATION: I have spoken with President Juan Guaido. I have invited him to Ecuador to receive the affection and support of a democracy-loving nation.
Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido will travel to Argentina on Friday to meet President Mauricio Macri, according to Guaido’s press team.
Argentina’s Foreign Ministry confirmed the meeting, saying that Guaido and Macri would hold a press conference on Friday.
Argentina is among the dozens of countries that support Guaido as interim president of Venezuela.
Guaido is currently in Paraguay as part of a whistle-stop tour intended to drum up support in the region and put pressure on Venezuela’s Nicolas Maduro to step down.
Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido has said that 600 members of Venezuela’s military have abandoned the government of Nicolas Maduro in recent days.
He made the announcement from the Paraguayan capital, Asuncion, where he was meeting the country’s President Mario Abdo Benitez.
Military support is seen as key to ensuring the stability of Maduro’s rule. It is unclear how many members of the armed forces have defected.
The Trump administration is in the process of discussing proposals to grant Venezuelans Temporary Protected Status (TPS), US Special Envoy for Venezuela Elliott Abrams told reporters on Friday.
While no decision has been made, Abrams said the US will continue to take “appropriate actions” against the government of President Nicolas Maduro, including restricting travel visas for dozens of Maduro’s associates.
He added that the US did not expect Russia or China to provide significant additional funds to Maduro’s government, but acknowledged that their political support was a “help” to Maduro.
Abrams also voiced concerns over whether opposition leader Juan Guaido, who is currently in Paraguay, will be able to return safely to Venezuela.
The US Treasury Department issued fresh Venezuela-related sanctions on Friday against six individuals, according to a statement posted on its website.
The sanctions target individuals associated with the “obstruction of humanitarian aid deliveries into Venezuela”, on February 23.
The US also targeted Venezuela’s government with new sanctions on Monday and called on allies to freeze the assets of state-owned PDVSA after deadly violence blocked humanitarian aid from reaching the country last weekend.
Venezuelan Vice President Delcy Rodriguez said on Friday that President Nicolas Maduro had ordered a European office of state oil company PDVSA to move to Moscow.
Rodriguez made the announcement following talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov at the Russian capital.
Meanwhile, Lavrov said Russia will counteract any attempts to intervene in Venezuela’s domestic affairs.
Lavrov said a close cooperation with Venezuela was gaining “special importance” as the country faced “a frontal attack and a shameless intervention into its internal affairs.”
Russia and China vetoed on Thursday a US push for the United Nations Security Council to call for free and fair presidential elections in Venezuela and unhindered aid access.
The US draft resolution garnered the minimum nine votes, forcing Russia and China to cast vetoes.
South Africa also voted against the text, while Indonesia, Equatorial Guinea and Ivory Coast abstained.
Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido said on Thursday he plans to return to Venezuela despite threats against himself and his family, and he plans to work out his return route this weekend.
Speaking to reporters after meeting Brazil’s right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro, Guaido said there was no chance of dialogue with the leftist government of President Nicolas Maduro without discussing elections.
Bolsonaro said during a joint statement with Guaido that he was the hope for restoring a “free, democratic and prosperous Venezuela”.
Guaido said Maduro’s ‘regime’ was weak and lacks support in the country and internationally.
Brazil President Jair Bolsonaro pledged full support for Venezuelan opposition leader Guaido on Thursday.
Bolsonaro said that he wanted to see a free, democratic and prosperous Venezuela.
Paraguay President Mario Abdo said by tweet on Thursday that Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido will visit the country on Friday, as Guaido tries to drum up support in the region and put pressure on Venezuela’s Nicolas Maduro to step down.
Mañana recibiremos la visita de nuestro querido amigo, Presidente Juan Guaidó en el Palacio de López.
— Marito Abdo (@MaritoAbdo) February 28, 2019
TRANSLATION: Tomorrow we will receive a visit from our dear friend, President Juan Guaido in the Lopez Palace.
The United States is seeking a vote Thursday at the UN Security Council on a draft resolution calling for “free, fair and credible” elections in Venezuela and free access for humanitarian aid, diplomats said.
Russia, an ally of President Nicolas Maduro’s regime, is likely to use its veto power to oppose the text, which also expresses “deep concern with the violence and excessive use of force by Venezuelan security forces against unarmed, peaceful protesters.”
Venezuela’s opposition leader Juan Guaido is due to meet Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro in Brasilia late Wednesday, sources from both camps said.
Guaido will travel to the Brazilian capital from Colombia, where he has stayed since Friday despite a travel ban imposed on him by the regime of Venezuela’s socialist leader Nicolas Maduro.
Brazil and Colombia are Guaido allies that have been holding humanitarian aid the National Assembly speaker wants to bring into Venezuela.
Venezuela’s foreign minister said that the United States was trying to overthrow the government of Nicolas Maduro and that his country had lost $30bn in assets “confiscated” since November 2017 under sanctions.
Jorge Arreaza, addressing the UN Human Rights Council despite a walk-out by dozens of Western envoys, suggested that Maduro and US President Donald Trump meet to “try to find common ground and explain their differences”.
“We’re calling for dialogue, dialogue with the United States – why not between Presidents Maduro and Trump? Why shouldn’t they meet so that they could try to find common ground and explain their differences?”
Read more here.
US Special Representative for Venezuela Elliott Abrams said on Tuesday that Washington would impose more sanctions on Caracas this week and next week to bring about additional pressure on the government of President Nicolas Maduro, whose legitimacy Washington has challenged.
Speaking ahead of a Security Council meeting on Venezuela sought by the United States, Abrams said he hoped the UN Security Council will vote this week on a resolution calling for Venezuela to allow the entry of humanitarian assistance into the country.
Abrams denied Russian accusations that the US is preparing for military intervention in Venezuela, but repeated that all options are on the table.
Peru is cancelling the visas of diplomats at the Venezuelan embassy in Lima, and will notify them that they will be in the country illegally starting from March 9, a Peruvian official said on Tuesday.
Deputy Foreign Minister Hugo de Zela said in a broadcast interview with radio station RPP that Peru recognises Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido’s designated ambassador to Peru and will no longer acknowledge embassy officials appointed by Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.
Carlos Vecchio, the Venezuelan opposition’s envoy to the United States, met US President Donald Trump recently and asked him to increase pressure on socialist President Nicolas Maduro, Vecchio’s office said in a statement on Tuesday.
Mexico’s president, asked about recognising Venezuela’s Guaido, urged all parties to seek a peaceful situation to the conflict via dialogue.
Asked about the detention of journalists in Venezuela on Monday, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said he did not want to involve himself in a polarised situation and remained committed to a policy of non-intervention in the affairs of other governments.
Russia believes the United States is preparing a military intervention in Venezuela, the RIA news agency cited the secretary of Russia’s Security Council as saying on Tuesday.
Nikolai Patrushev was also cited by the Interfax news agency as saying Russia had agreed to a proposal from Washington to hold consultations on Venezuela, a close ally of Moscow, but the United States had repeatedly postponed them on invented pretexts.
Brazil’s vice president, retired general Hamilton Mourao, said on Monday that under no circumstances would his country allow the United States to intervene militarily in Venezuela from Brazilian territory.
In an interview with Globo News cable channel, Mourao said Brazil will do all it can to avoid a conflict with neighbouring Venezuela.
He spoke from Bogota, where he attended a meeting of the Lima Group, a bloc of nations from Argentina to Canada dedicated to peaceful resolution of the Venezuelan crisis.
Vice President Mike Pence reiterated the US position on Venezuela on Monday, insisting that a military intervention to force President Nicolas Maduro from power has not been ruled out.
“We hope for a peaceful transition to democracy. But President Trump has made it clear: all options are on the table,” Pence said after meeting with Venezuela’s opposition leader Juan Guaido at a Lima Group gathering in Colombia.
The United States has asked the United Nations Security Council to meet to discuss the situation in Venezuela on Tuesday, said diplomats after Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s troops repelled foreign aid convoys at the weekend.
The United States has been pushing the 15-member council to formally call for free, fair and credible presidential elections in Venezuela with international observers, a move that prompted Russia to propose a rival draft resolution. It was unclear if or when either draft text could be put to a vote.
Moscow and Washington have been at loggerheads over a US-led campaign for international recognition of Venezuelan opposition leader and head of the country’s elected National Assembly Juan Guaido over Maduro. Guaido last month declared himself interim head of state.
Vice President Mike Pence says the United States is sending another $56m to neighbours of Venezuela to help them cope with migrants fleeing that nation’s deepening crisis.
Pence said Monday that the United States has already provided more than $139m in aid to help Venezuela.
He spoke in Colombia’s capital at a meeting of The Lima Group, a coalition of mostly Latin American nations formed to address Venezuela’s turmoil.
Pence also met opposition congressional leader Juan Guaido, who has declared presidential powers, arguing that the reelection of socialist President Nicolas Maduro was invalid.
Pence said the US has sent five military transport planes with 400 tonnes of food and medicine to Colombia and Brazil.
Deadly clashes erupted over the weekend when Maduro refused to allow the aid cross, calling it part of a US-led coup.
US Vice President Mike Pence told Juan Guaido, who declared himself Venezuela’s interim president, that the United States stands with him.
“President Trump has asked me to convey a message to him, President Guaido: we are with you, and we will be until the freedom and democracy come back,” he said.
“As of today, the United States will impose additional sanctions on the regime’s officials.”
Pence also asked Latin American nations to freeze Venezuela oil assets.
“We call on all Lima Group nations to immediately freeze the assets of PDVSA,” he said.
“Secondly, transfer ownership of Venezuelan assets in your country from Maduro’s henchmen to President Guaido’s government,” and he also called on the countries to restrict visas for officials close to Maduro and to vote to recognise the representative of Juan Guaido, Venezuela’s self-declared interim president, at the Inter-American Development Bank.
The opposition leader Juan Guaido is about to speak in a meeting of the Lima Group and has started requesting a “minute of silence for the massacre Venezuelans experienced on February 23,” according to local media reports.
“This meeting is aimed at the recovery of democracy in Venezuela, and the respect for human rights. Today Maduro thinks that by blocking the humanitarian aid, he has gained a victory. They dance in Caracas, on top of indigenous tombs,” he added.
“The dilemma is between a dictatorship and democracy. Between massacres or saving lives.”
“Today the transition is being blocked by irregular armed groups,” Guaido explained, “without those weapons we would have a pacific transition.”
Colombia’s President Ivan Duque called on members of the Lima Group meeting in Bogota on Monday to create a “more powerful and effective” ring around Venezuela’s socialist leader Nicolas Maduro.
Duque, who met with Venezuela’s opposition leader Juan Guaido and US Vice President Mike Pence, said added pressure would facilitate the “rapid construction of the transition demanded by the Venezuelan people.”
The US has imposed sanctions on four Venezuelans as it ramped up pressure on Venezuelan President Nicholas Maduro, whose election Washington sees as illegitimate.
The action, which was announced in a post on the US Treasury’s website, coincides with US Vice President Mike Pence attending a meeting of the regional Lima Group of nations in Bogota, where he was expected to announce steps against Maduro’s government.
Violence during the attempted delivery of much-needed food and medicine to Venezuela over the weekend has steeled the United States’s resolve to support opposition leader Juan Guaido, US Vice-President Mike Pence said on Monday.
The US will keep standing with Guaido until freedom is restored is the South American nation, Pence said at a meeting of the regional Lima Group bloc.
To President @jguaido of Venezuela, it is a great privilege to share this moment. I bring you and President of Colombia @IvanDuque a very simple message from @POTUS Trump & the United States of America: We are with you 100%. pic.twitter.com/iEaTyDvB7i
— Vice President Mike Pence (@VP) February 25, 2019
China’s foreign ministry has issued a rebuke to foreign opponents of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, saying China opposes “intervention by external forces in the internal affairs of Venezuela.”
Foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang says China “also opposes using the so-called humanitarian aid to serve political ends and stir up instability and even turmoil in Venezuela and its neighborhood, which is not in the interests of any party.”
Venezuela opposition leader Juan Guaido and US Vice President Mike Pence took part in a meeting of the Lima Group in Colombia on Monday to discuss a joint strategy to resolve Venezuela’s crisis.
“In the Lima Group we’re fighting to find a peaceful solution,” said Peru’s Foreign Affairs Minister Hugo de Zela.
The European Union on Monday urged countries to avoid any military intervention in Venezuela, the spokeswoman for diplomatic chief Federica Mogherini said.
“We must avoid a military intervention,” Maja Kocijancic told reporters, as Venezuela’s opposition leader Juan Guaido was in Bogota to hold talks with allies in the regional Lima Group of countries on measures to compel President Nicolas Maduro to leave office.
Bolivian President Evo Morales called on the Lima Group to seek a solution for Venezuela on the basis of dialogue, as an option to avoid a war in Latin America.
“Brother Presidents of the Lima Group: Respecting our political differences and as democratically elected leaders, I ask you, with much respect, to seek a solution through dialogue as an option to save lives and prevent war from bringing destruction to our LA,” Morales wrote on his Twitter account.
Hermanos Presidentes del Grupo de Lima: Respetando nuestras diferencias políticas y como líderes democráticamente electos les pido, con mucho respeto, que busquen una solución mediante el diálogo como opción para salvar vidas y evitar que la guerra traiga destrucción a nuestra AL
— Evo Morales Ayma (@evoespueblo) February 25, 2019
US Vice President Mike Pence is set to announce “concrete steps” and “clear actions” to address the Venezuela crisis when he meets on Monday with regional leaders in Bogota, a senior US administration official said.
The official declined to comment on what the new measures would entail ahead of Pence’s speech, which he will deliver to a summit of the Lima Group around 15:30 GMT after he meets with Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido.
To @jguaido & all the people of Venezuela taking a stand for freedom & humanitarian relief: Estamos con ustedes. We are with you. As @POTUS said: ‘The people of Venezuela are standing for freedom and democracy, and the USA is standing right by their side.’ ¡Vayan con Dios!
— Vice President Mike Pence (@VP) February 23, 2019
Michele Bachelet condemned violence at points on the Venezuelan border where opposition figures have been trying to bring in aid shipments.
The former Chilean president focused her criticism on excessive use of force used by Venezuelan security forces, as well the involvement of pro-government groups.
“The Venezuelan government must stop its forces from using excessive force against unarmed protesters and ordinary citizens,” she said.
Bachelet urged Maduro’s government “to rein in” pro-government groups reportedly using force against protesters.
“The use of proxy forces has a long and sinister history in the region,” she added, “it is very alarming to see them operating openly in this way in Venezuela.”
.@mbachelet condena violencia en las fronteras de #Venezuela. "El Gobierno venezolano debe obligar a los cuerpos de seguridad a dejar de emplear el uso excesivo de la fuerza contra manifestantes desarmados y ciudadanos comunes” -> https://t.co/reQeRR7vVq pic.twitter.com/xmS7kRmnYP
— UN Human Rights (@UNHumanRights) February 24, 2019
Renewed clashes have broken out between protesters and Venezuelan national guardsmen at the border with Brazil.
Dozens of Venezuelans who had come to the Brazilian border city of Pacaraima began throwing rocks across the closed border at Venezuelan troops, who responded with tear gas and buckshot.
Globo television broadcast images of a Brazilian soldier advancing to the boundary line on Sunday to appeal for calm from the Venezuelan soldiers and to urge protesters and journalists to move back.
Venezuelan migrants on Sunday helped clean debris from a bridge where troops loyal to President Nicolas Maduro a day earlier fired tear gas on activists trying to deliver humanitarian aid in violent clashes that left two people dead and some 280 injured.
Colombian President Ivan Duque reinforced security around two international bridges near the city of Cucuta and ordered that they remain closed for 48 hours to allow for the cleanup effort.
Civil defence officials in Colombia said at least 285 people had been wounded in clashes at border bridge crossings.
On Monday, the Lima Group will meet and discuss “the events that took place on Saturday in Venezuela,” Colombia’s President Ivan Duque wrote.
“[What happened] is clearly object of reproach by the international community, due to the barbarism and violence.”
“[On Monday] we will also debate how to strengthen the diplomatic siege that we have imposed [against] the dictatorship in Venezuela,” he added.
El lunes, el Grupo de Lima se reunirá y discutirá sobre los hechos que hoy son claramente objeto de reproche de la comunidad internacional, por la barbarie y la violencia. Allí también se deliberará sobre cómo se debe arreciar el cerco diplomático a la dictadura en Venezuela. pic.twitter.com/g6Zh0Pf83Q
— Iván Duque 🇨🇴 (@IvanDuque) February 24, 2019
Two Venezuelan soldiers have sought refuge in Brazil Colonel Georges Feres Kanaan, a member of Brazil’s migration service, told AFP on Sunday.
Feres Kanaan said he was manning a welcoming post for Venezuelan migrants in Pacaraima on Brazil’s border with its northwestern neighbour when the two soldiers “presented themselves asking for asylum.”
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo expressed confidence that President Nicolas Maduro’s “days are numbered,” amid a violent impasse over humanitarian aid.
“Predictions are difficult. Picking exact days is difficult,” Pompeo told CNN. “[But] I’m confident that the Venezuelan people will ensure that Maduro’s days are numbered.”
The U.S. will take action against those who oppose the peaceful restoration of democracy in #Venezuela. Now is the time to act in support of the needs of the desperate Venezuelan people. We stand in solidarity with those continuing their struggle for freedom. #EstamosUnidosVE pic.twitter.com/XfLEsyT6Rj
— Secretary Pompeo (@SecPompeo) February 24, 2019
Argentinian president Mauricio Macri has condemned the “repression used by the government of Nicolas Maduro” on Saturday.
The president accused the leader of “imposing suffering on his people”.
“The situation that Venezuelans are living is dramatic. I want to condemn the repression deployed by Maduro and his actions to prevent Venezuelans from receiving humanitarian aid,” he wrote on Twitter.
“Once again, I renew Argentina’s support to the president in charge Juan Guaido, and support to the efforts that it carries out together with the National Assembly to allow the entry of food and medicines destined to alleviate the suffering that policies of the Maduro regime has imposed on all Venezuelan people.”
La situación en la que viven los venezolanos es dramática. Quiero condenar la represión desplegada por Maduro y sus acciones para impedir que el pueblo venezolano reciba la ayuda humanitaria
— Mauricio Macri (@mauriciomacri) February 24, 2019
Una vez más renuevo el apoyo de Argentina al presidente encargado Juan Guaidó y a los esfuerzos de la Asamblea Nacional para lograr que lleguen los alimentos y las medicinas tan necesarios para aliviar el sufrimiento que Maduro ha impuesto sobre su propio pueblo
— Mauricio Macri (@mauriciomacri) February 24, 2019
Brazil condemned the violence used by Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s government this weekend to block aid shipments from crossing the border, branding it a “criminal act” and calling on the international community to join efforts to “liberate” the South American nation.
Meanwhile, Brazilian Army Colonel George Feres Kanaan told Reuters on Sunday that two Venezuelan national guard soldiers deserted to Brazil late Saturday, joining some 60 military officials who defected in Colombia.
The European Union said it was prepared to “scale up” humanitarian and development aid to ease the plight of Venezuelans.
“We recall our commitment to help those in need for as long as it takes, to scale up this assistance,” EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said in a statement in the name of the bloc’s 28 members following deadly border clashes.
“The opposition has given up on getting the aid through at least for today,” Al Jazeera’s Alessandro Rampietti reported from Cucuta.
“Two of the four trucks carrying the aid have already left, the two remaining trucks are behind me and we have been told by some of the opposition officials that they are moving them back to the Tienditas bridge at the warehouse where most of the aid has been stored.”
“The opposition is considering that they tried, at least for today… it’s been a long day of fighting over this bridge, and in the bridge of Urenia, where two of the trucks were burned to the ground by people supporting President Nicolas Maduro,” he added.
Opposition leader Juan Guaido said that Maduro has violated international law by the way he has handled the aid.
“We keep receiving the support of the international community, they have been able to see how this usurper regime violates the Geneva protocol, where it clearly states that destroying aid is a crime against humanity,” he wrote on Twitter.
Seguimos recibiendo el respaldo de la comunidad internacional, que ha podido ver, con sus propios ojos, como el régimen usurpador viola el protocolo de Ginebra, donde se dice claramente que destruir la ayuda humanitaria es un crimen de lesa humanidad.
— Juan Guaidó (@jguaido) February 23, 2019
According to Colombian officials, 23 members of Venezuelan security forces deserted, and 12 people were wounded during clashes in the border.
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro is responsible for the safety of Colombian diplomats in Venezuela, Colombia’s foreign minister said on Saturday, after Maduro formally broke off relations with Bogota.
“Colombia holds the usurper Maduro responsible for any aggression or violation of the rights of Colombian officials in Venezuela,” Foreign Minister Carlos Holmes Trujillo said.
Meanwhile Colombian Vice President, Marta Lucia Ramirez said that Maduro “cannot break a diplomatic relation that Colombia does not have with him.”
“Our government has not named an ambassador there nor do we recognise Maduro’s ambassador since his term ended on January 9.” she wrote on Twitter.
Querida @patriciajaniot Maduro no puede romper relaciones diplomáticas que Colombia no tiene con él. Nuestro gobierno no ha nombrado embajador allá ni reconocemos embajador de Maduro pues su mandato terminó el 9 de enero. Es un simple dictador que ocupa por la fuerza Miraflores https://t.co/ze1NGfVfng
— Marta Lucía Ramírez (@mluciaramirez) February 23, 2019
Two people were killed, and 18 have been injured, in the Venezuelan town of Santa Elena de Uairen in clashes with security forces over the opposition’s plan to bring in aid from nearby Brazil, a doctor at the hospital where they were taken said.
Venezuelans are rushing to rescue boxes of emergency food and medicine from burning trucks stalled on a bridge to Colombia.
Fernando Flores, an eyewitness, said national guardsmen had torched the trucks once they crossed into Venezuelan territory.
Maduro has vowed to block any aid shipments, considering them a “Trojan horse” intended to pave the way for foreign military intervention
One truck in a convoy attempting to bring humanitarian aid into Venezuela from Colombia went up in flames on Saturday, sending plumes of dark smoke into the air, footage from a Venezuelan television channel showed.
Another truck almost went on fire on Urena’s border. “The regimen is using the vilest acts and it has tried to burn a truck with humanitarian aid in Urena,” Guaido wrote.
“Our brave volunteers are making a human chain to safeguard the food and medicines.”
El régimen usurpador se vale de los actos más viles e intenta quemar el camión con ayuda humanitaria que se encuentra en Ureña.
Nuestros valientes voluntarios están realizando una cadena para salvaguardar la comida y las medicinas.
La avalancha humanitaria es indetenible pic.twitter.com/bU2PPzSGcu
— Juan Guaidó (@jguaido) February 23, 2019
Opposition leader Guaido says humanitarian aid from Colombia has entered Venezuela, but Venezuelan forces have prevented them from moving any further.
“They won’t be able to stop our decision to live in freedom.” Guaido wrote.
Anunciamos que los camiones de la ayuda humanitaria provenientes de Colombia ya están en territorio venezolano.
El régimen usurpador está impidiendo su paso.
No podrán con nuestra decisión irreversible de vivir en libertad.
— Juan Guaidó (@jguaido) February 23, 2019
Venezuela President Nicolas Maduro breaks diplomatic relations with neighbouring Colombia.
“Patience is exhausted, I can’t bear it anymore, we can’t keep putting up with Colombian territory being used for attacks against Venezuela. For that reason, I have decided to break all political and diplomatic relations with Colombia’s fascist government,” Maduro said in a speech.
President Nicolas Maduro addressed thousands of supporters in Caracas and said:
“[For our] Dignity, we will fight harder than ever.”
“Hard, standing and governing our motherland for now and for many years, on behalf of our destiny, with the reins in our hand.
“I hold the reins of the motherland, I hold the reins on behalf of the young people, university students, when I hold the reins, I’m holding them on your behalf, working mothers .. military members.. men and women alike …”
“Today is February 23rd and a month ago exactly, at this under the same sun, I saw you at the Miraflores palace, we met there, and what did I tell you … that days will go by, weeks will go by and Nicolas Maduro the worker’s president will continue at the head of the motherland.”
Members of the Bolivarian police fired tear gas to remove people from Simon Bolivar’s bridge, El Nacional, a local news agency reported.
“There are women that have fainted and are under the trucks,” a Venezuelan citizen told media.
— Gabriel Bastidas (@Gbastidas) February 23, 2019
Thousands are flooding the streets of Venezuela’s capital in rival demonstrations as opposition leaders vow to move shipments of humanitarian aid into the country despite objections from President Nicolas Maduro.
In Caracas, Maduro loyalists marched by the thousands to the city centre to the sounds of brass bands, while others rode motorcycles.
Opposition supporters are converging on a Caracas military base, urging soldiers to join their fight.
A convoy of trucks carrying humanitarian assistance for Venezuela will be unloaded at the Simon Bolivar bridge on Colombia’s side of the border and the aid will be transported by a human chain across the frontier, Colombia’s migration agency said.
Al Jazeera’s Alessandro Rampietti reporting from Colombia said this is so far “the biggest showdown on the battle for the legitimacy of Venezuela.”
“You have President Nicolas Maduro that remains firmly in power, and you have the leader of the opposition, Juan Guiado, who declared himself the interim president who is saying that Maduro is nothing more than a usurper at this point.”
“This action is very important because it’s the way for the opposition to show that they are able to be successful in so far the biggest act of defiance against President Maduro. it would be a way for him to show some legitimacy and to show that he can bring some level of change in the country even if he doesn’t control any level of power so far.”
Meanwhile Caraca’s former major Julio Borges told Al Jazeera that “a humanitarian crisis cannot turn into a political blade.”
“People are here, because people in Venezuela are hungry and they need help,” he added.
Additional reporting by Mia Alberti in Cucuta, Colombia
Venezuela’s opposition leader Juan Guaido announced that a first shipment of humanitarian aid had entered Venezuela through its border with Brazil.
“Attention Venezuela: We officially announce that the first shipment of humanitarian aid has now entered our border with Brazil. This is a great achievement, Venezuela!” wrote Guaido in a tweet.
Anunciamos oficialmente que YA ENTRÓ el primer cargamento de ayuda humanitaria por nuestra frontera con Brasil.
¡Esto es un gran logro, Venezuela!
— Juan Guaidó (@jguaido) February 23, 2019
A convoy of trucks carrying humanitarian aid for Venezuela left warehouses in Colombia headed for the nearby border crossing, despite Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s insistence they would not be allowed to cross.
Speaking on the Colombian side of the border, opposition leader Juan Guaido called on troops to allow the convoy to cross. Alongside him, Colombian President Ivan Duque said Maduro would be responsible for any violence.
A truck carrying humanitarian aid crossed into Venezuela from Brazil at midday on Saturday, opposition lawmaker Miguel Pizarro told reporters in Caracas.
A Reuters witness said, however, that while the truck was on Venezuelan soil, it had not yet passed through the customs checkpoint.
Opposition leader Juan Guaido gives a statement to the media alongside Colombia’s President Ivan Duque and Paraguay’s President Mario Abdo Benitez.
US-donated aid is “on its way” to Venezuela, Guaido announced.
“The humanitarian aid is definitely going to Venezuela in a peaceful and calm manner to save lives at this time,” said Guaido, at a ceremony to launch the effort on the Colombian side of the border in defiance of a blockade by President Nicolas Maduro.
“This is a landmark point in our history”
“To the Generals and all the countries that have formed [part of] this coallition… we are eternally grateful to you all.” he added.
Additional reporting by Mia Alberti in Cucuta, Colombia
The first truck with humanitarian aid from the Brazilian government has arrived in the city of Pacaraima on the border with Venezuela.
The crossing has been closed on orders from Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and the truck loaded with food and medicine will now wait in Brazilian territory.
Brazil’s Foreign Minister Ernesto Araujo said he expects Maduro’s government to allow the aid to pass.
“It is very exciting to see people anxious to recover their freedom and have a decent life,” Araujo said.
US President Donald Trump’s national security adviser John Bolton cancelled plans to travel to South Korea to prepare for a summit addressing North Korea’s nuclear program in order to focus instead on events unfolding in Venezuela, his spokesman said on Friday.
National Security Adviser Jonh Bolton has sent a message to the military forces.
To Maduro’s military cronies attacking civilians at the Brazilian border – the world is watching and the perpetrators will face justice. The Venezuelan military should protect civilians, not shoot them. https://t.co/dLDfqoknNz
— John Bolton (@AmbJohnBolton) February 23, 2019
Four National Guard troops at the frontier disavowed Maduro’s government on Saturday, following an appeal from Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido to let aid through.
A social media video showed the troops driving armoured vehicles across a bridge linking the two countries, knocking over metal barricades in the process, and then jumping out of the vehicles and running to the Colombian side.
Colombia’s migration authority confirmed the defection of the four Venezuelan soldiers.
Opposition leader Juan Guaido expressed his support on Twitter in Spanish.
Translation: Venezuela, those guards and members of the Armed Forces who decide to join our fight are not defectors.
They have decided to side with the people and the Constitution!
Welcome! The arrival of Freedom and Democracy in Venezuela is already unstoppable.
Venezuela: no son desertores aquellos guardias y efectivos de las FFAA que decidan sumarse a nuestra lucha.
¡Han decidido ponerse del lado del Pueblo y de la Constitución!
¡Bienvenidos! La llegada de la Libertad y la Democracia a Venezuela ya es indetenible. pic.twitter.com/zojGluqAuo
— Juan Guaidó (@jguaido) February 23, 2019
Venezuelan security forces fired tear gas and rubber bullets on Saturday to disperse a crowd demanding to cross the Venezuela-Colombia border, ordered closed by President Nicolas Maduro.
The Venezuelan government had said that it was closing three of its bridges on the border.
Street vendors and people with suitcases walked along the street in the dark closely followed by dozens of soldiers.
“What’s happening here is that the Armed Forces, by order of Padrino Lopez,Venezuelan Defence Minister, and Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, have blocked the border, and do not let anyone pass,” explained Ronaldo Suarez, a street vendor selling coffee and cigarettes by the border.
Venezuela and the United States are still in discussions about the status of US diplomats in Caracas ahead of next week’s deadline imposed by President Nicolas Maduro for them to leave, Venezuela’s foreign minister said on Friday.
In a press briefing at the United Nations, Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza said Venezuelan officials would meet with the U.S. special envoy for Venezuela, Elliott Abrams, to discuss the issue.
Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido arrived arm-in-arm with Colombian President Ivan Duque on Friday at a concert in Colombia that aims to raise $100 million for humanitarian aid for his country.
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres “strongly appeals” for violence to be avoided in Venezuela, a UN spokesman said on Friday after the first bloodshed linked to efforts to bring aid into the country against the orders of embattled President Nicolas Maduro.
“Any loss of life is regrettable,” UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters. “Looking ahead for tomorrow the secretary-general strongly appeals for violence to be avoided,” he added.
Opposition leader Juan Guaido has vowed to bring in foreign aid from neighboring countries on Saturday and called on security forces to disobey Maduro and let supplies into the country suffering food and medicine shortages.
Dueling concerts will be the backdrop of the showdown between Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and opposition leader and self-declared interim president Juan Guaido on Friday as the opposition prepares to bring aid across the Venezuela-Colombia border – a move Maduro has vowed to block.
Billionaire Richard Branson will host a “Venezuelan Aid Live” concert on the Tienditas International bridge, which connects Venezuela and Colombia, while Maudro’s government plans to hold a three-day festival on the other side of the border.
The Brazilian government is sending a plane load of supplies and humanitarian aid to its northern border with Venezuela on Friday.
Although Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro officially closed the border between the two countries Thursday, the Brazilian air force plane loaded with food and medicine took off destined for Boa Vista, the main city in the northern state of Roraima.
Authorities will then transport the goods by road three hours north to Pacaraima, the city that borders Venezuela.
Venezuelan Deputy Foreign Minister Ivan Gil said at a meeting in the upper chamber of the Russian parliament on Friday that President Nicolas Maduro is “constantly in touch” with President Vladimir Putin on the phone.
He thanked Russia for a recent shipment of medicine but reiterated the government stance that there is no humanitarian crisis in the South American country.
Venezuelan troops killed at least one person and wounded 12 others on Friday near the Brazilian border, witnesses said, the first bloodshed linked to opposition efforts to bring aid into the South American country against the wishes of embattled President Nicolas Maduro.
Friday’s violence broke out as indigenous leaders in southern Venezuela said they had attempted to stop a military convoy heading toward the border with Brazil, believing the soldiers were attempting to block the entrance of foreign aid as per Maduro’s order.
The convoy entered the indigenous village of Kumarakapay anyway, opening fire to clear the way and killing a woman, Zoraida Rodriguez, according to community leaders Richard Fernandez and Ricardo Delgado.
“The result of this crime: 12 injured and one dead,” opposition leader Juan Guaido, who declared interim presidency, said on Twitter. “You must decide which side you are on in this definitive hour. To all the military: between today and tomorrow, you will define how you want to be remembered.”
Representatives of Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido held a news conference in the Colombian border city of Cucuta on Thursday, vowing to transport humanitarian aid into Venezuela.
Tons of aid is currently stored in Cucuta, awaiting to enter into the other side of the border in Venezuela.
Venezuelan nurses, doctors, engineers and homemakers are volunteering by the thousands to distribute the food and medicine in the face of a government ban.
The citizen brigade is one of the most ambitious undertakings Venezuela’s opposition has attempted.
“I am inviting you to turn the 29 municipalities of Tachira state into the border to all the bridges, to all the roads dressed in white,” Gaby Arellano, Venezuelan opposition member told journalists during the news conference in Cucuta.
A Russian deputy foreign minister has met with his Venezuelan counterpart as tensions rise in the South American country.
Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov and Venezuela’s Ivan Gil met in Moscow in a session that the Russian Foreign Ministry said was held in a constructive atmosphere.
“The Russian side expressed solidarity with the friendly people of Venezuela, firm support for the policy of its government aimed at preventing destabilisation in the country and supported the idea of holding a national dialogue to overcome the differences in Venezuelan society,” the ministry said in a statement.
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said the government was considering closing the border with Colombia and would close the border with Brazil ahead of opposition plans to bring in humanitarian aid despite his objection.
In televised comments, Maduro said the stockpiling of aid for Venezuela in the Colombian border town of Cucuta was a “provocation”. He argues the opposition’s plans are a cheap show to undermine his government.
Maduro said the government would close the border with Brazil on Thursday night after the Brazilian government pledged to also send aid in.
The United States and other members of the group have thrown their support behind opposition leader Juan Guaido and are trying to pressure President Nicolas Maduro to step aside to allow for new elections and the entry of aid.
“The struggle in Venezuela is between dictatorship and democracy, and freedom has the momentum. Juan Guaido is the only legitimate leader of Venezuela, and it’s time for Nicolas Maduro to go,” Alyssa Farah, a spokeswoman for Pence, said in a statement
A caravan of opposition leaders is heading toward Venezuela’s border with Colombia ahead of a Saturday showdown over humanitarian aid.
Lawmakers departed in three white buses from Caracas early Thursday.
The opposition is vowing on Saturday to deliver large amounts of US-supplied aid warehoused in the Colombian border city of Cucuta.
Air France said it is suspending some flights to Caracas until Monday as the political crisis deepens with a standoff over foreign aid.
An airline spokeswoman told AFP news agency late Wednesday that “certain flights had been halted over security concerns,” including direct flights between Paris and Caracas.
Air France’s website, however, was on Thursday still offering flights to Caracas via Panama.
Guaido plans to head to the border with Colombia on Thursday to lead the attempt to bring in US aid in defiance of Maduro’s government.
The opposition leader has set Saturday as the deadline for bringing in the aid stockpiled in Cucuta, Colombia.
His press office said he will depart for the border in a caravan with fellow members of the opposition-controlled National Assembly.
Although it was unclear what Guaido intends to do, he has enlisted hundreds of thousands of volunteers in recent days to help bring in and distribute the aid, forcing a showdown with Maduro.
Venezuela’s borders with Aruba, Curacao and Bonaire will remain closed for an indefinite period, Vice President Delcy Rodriguez, accompanied by Chancellor Jorge Arreaza, announced on Wednesday.
Rodriguez also informed that on instructions from President Nicolas Maduro diplomatic relations with the Government of the Netherlands Antilles will be reviewed.
The government made the decision after Curacao’s government said the island would help store aid destined for Venezuela.
Venezuelans are bracing nervously for possible weekend confrontations as Guaido vows to bring US aid into the country in defiance of Maduro’s government.
In the latest maneuver of his standoff with the president, Guaido rallied bus drivers who he said will head to the borders to collect aid for Venezuelans suffering shortages.
Private bus driver Jose Figueroa, 60, said he planned to leave Caracas in the coming days in a convoy of some 30 vehicles.
“The situation is extremely tense,” he said, as drivers parked their buses and pick-up trucks at a rally in central Caracas.
“But a bullet will kill you more quickly than hunger.”
The Venezuelan military said it was banning vessels from sailing out of the country’s ports until Sunday, coinciding with an opposition bid to import shipments of US aid.
“Departures of boats from all ports are to be suspended” for security reasons, said a military decree seen by AFP news agency.
The Colombian border city of Cucuta is preparing for a live concert over the weekend that aims to shed light on the humanitarian crisis in neighbouring Venezuela.
Cucuta’s mayor Cesar Rojas Ayala said Cucuta is preparing with strong police presence but does not expect a military confrontation.
“We have available 1,500 men throughout all the corridors where the movement of vehicle of the personalities will be,” Ayala said.
Swiss President Ueli Maurer did not speak to Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido about freezing Swiss bank accounts belonging to the South American nation, a foreign ministry spokesman said on Wednesday.
“This information is not correct. There was no telephone contact between Guaido and President Maurer,” the spokesman said by email in response to an enquiry.
He was not immediately available to elaborate.
Opposition leader Juan Guaido informed citizens that the mobilisation summoned for this Saturday will go to the military barracks to demand that humanitarian aid is allowed to enter the country.
Guaido also sent a message to the military citizens and stressed that the entry of humanitarian aid is to serve citizens and “save lives.”
Y anuncio al país: este #23F nos movilizaremos a todos los cuarteles de Venezuela a exigir el ingreso de la ayuda humanitaria.
Señores de la #FANB, tienen 3 días para acatar a la orden del Presidente (E) y ponerse del lado de la constitución. Esta ayuda es para salvar vidas.
— Juan Guaidó (@jguaido) February 20, 2019
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov accused the United States of “direct intervention” in Venezuela.
He alleged the opposition, led by Juan Guaido, was guilty of “actively supporting and instigating this external interference”.
“This is undoubtedly a direct violation of the UN charter and a direct intervention into the domestic affairs of an independent country,” said Lavrov of American actions.
He added the US was ignoring diplomacy.
Lavrov’s comments came as Russian news agencies reported a shipment of Russian medicine and medical equipment arrived in Venezuela.
Venezuelan security forces have executed several people and arbitrarily detained hundreds of others in a campaign to punish people who protested President Nicolas Maduro, human rights group Amnesty International said.
In a report titled Hunger, punishment and fear, the formula for repression in Venezuela, Amnesty said dozens died during five days of protests from January 21 to January 25, almost all from gunshot wounds, and 900 people were arrested.
Opposition leader Juan Guaido said he spoke to the president of Switzerland to try to freeze banks accounts belonging to the tumultuous South American nation after “irregular movements” were discovered.
“We are talking to the Swiss president,” Guaido said in an interview with Mexican network Televisa.
Guaido said the Venezuelan government held bank accounts in Switzerland and irregular efforts to migrate part of those accounts to “another site” had been detected.
Venezuelan authorities reopened the country’s maritime border with the Dutch Antilles islands after closing it on Tuesday, a regional military commander told Reuters news agency.
General Miguel Morales Miranda, second-in-command for the state of Falcon, did not give a reason for the change, which now allows boats and aircraft to travel between Venezuela and the islands of Aruba, Curacao and Bonaire.
Brazil will deliver humanitarian aid to the Venezuelan border by February 23 together with the United States at the request of Venezuela’s opposition leader Juan Guaidó, presidential spokesman General Otavio Rego Barros said on Tuesday.
The distribution of aid from the northern Brazilian city of Boa Vista across the border in trucks driven by Venezuelan citizens will be organized by Guaidó, the spokesman said at a news conference.
Venezuela closed its sea border with Curacao ahead of the aid operation, a military official said.
Cuba rejected Tuesday the “despicable” accusation by US President Donald Trump that it has troops in Venezuela defending socialist leader Nicolas Maduro.
On Monday, Trump claimed that Maduro was being “protected by a private army of Cuban soldiers.”
“Let him show the evidence. Our government rejects this slander in the strongest and most categorical terms,” said Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez.
Venezuelan authorities have closed the maritime border with the Dutch Antilles, a regional navy chief told Reuters on Tuesday.
The closure prevents boats and aircraft from arriving from the islands of Aruba, Curacao and Bonaire.
Vice Admiral Quintero Martinez did not give a reason for the closure, though Venezuela’s opposition have said they plan to bring humanitarian aid into the country from Curacao on Saturday, which President Nicolas Maduro’s government has pledged to block.
Pink Floyd co-founder Roger Waters slammed an upcoming “Live Aid”-style concert to raise funds for humanitarian aid for Venezuela, calling the event a US-backed effort to tarnish the socialist government.
Billionaire Richard Branson is backing the Friday show in the Colombian border city of Cucuta with a fundraising target of $100m to provide food and medicine for Venezuelans suffering widespread shortages.
“It has nothing to do with humanitarian aid at all,” the 75-year-old Waters said. “It has to do with Richard Branson … having bought the US saying, ‘We have decided to take over Venezuela, for whatever our reasons may be.'”
Venezuela’s armed forces will remain stationed along the country’s borders to prevent potential territorial violations, Defence Minister Vladimir Padrino said.
Padrino said Venezuelan officers and soldiers were “obedient and subordinate” to President Nicolas Maduro, who some 50 countries around the world no longer recognise as the legitimate head of state.
Venezuelan Defence Minister Vladimir Padrino said on Tuesday the country’s opposition would have to pass over “our dead bodies” to oust President Nicolas Maduro and impose a new government.
“Those that attempt to be president here in Venezuela … will have to pass over our dead bodies,” he said, in comments broadcast on state TV.
Padrino was referring to opposition leader Juan Guaido, who has invoked the constitution to assume an interim presidency, denouncing Maduro as illegitimate.
Shortly after a speech by Trump in Miami, during which he pleaded with Venezuela’s armed forces to support Guaido and warned of dire consequences for standing with Maduro, the Venezuelan president accused his US counterpart of trying to give orders to a foreign country’s military.
“Who is the commander of the armed forces, Donald Trump from Miami?” Maduro said on Monday, in comments broadcast by state television.
“Who is the constitutional commander-in-chief? They believe with their arrogance and their contempt for us. They believe they own the country and Donald Trump believes he has the power to give orders and that the National Bolivarian Armed Forces will carry out his orders.
“It is an offence to dignity and to shame.”
Maduro, who has vowed not to let US aid enter Venezuela, also said that 300 tonnes of assistance would soon arrive from Russia. He said Venezuela paid for the Russian goods and is not a country of beggars, lashing out at Trump for thinking he can force in unwanted aid.
“They want to enslave us,” Maduro said. “That’s the truth.”
Trump on Monday warned members of Venezuela’s military who support President Nicolas Maduro that they are risking their lives and urged them to allow aid into the country.
Speaking to a cheering crowd mostly of Venezuelan and Cuban immigrants, Trump said if the Venezuelan military continues supporting Maduro, “you will find no safe harbour, no easy exit and no way out. You’ll lose everything.”
He said he wanted a peaceful transition of power in Venezuela but that all options remained open.
“I ask every member of the Maduro regime: End this nightmare of poverty, hunger and death. LET YOUR PEOPLE GO. Set your country free! Now is the time for all Venezuelan Patriots to act together, as one united people. Nothing could be better for the future of Venezuela!” he tweeted on Monday.
I ask every member of the Maduro regime: End this nightmare of poverty, hunger and death. LET YOUR PEOPLE GO. Set your country free! Now is the time for all Venezuelan Patriots to act together, as one united people. Nothing could be better for the future of Venezuela!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 18, 2019
The Minister of Communication and Information of Venezuela Jorge Rodriguez, announced on Monday the realisation of a “concert for peace,” in the framework of Venezuela’s campaign “Hands off Venezuela,” the website Telesur reported.
The event will take place at the Simon Bolivar International Bridge, located in the Colombian-Venezuelan border on Friday and Saturday (February 22-23). According to local reports, it will count with the participation of numerous artists “in support of Venezuelan democracy. “
Minister Rodriguez also announced a day of free medical attention for Colombian and Venezuelan citizens, which will be attended by pediatricians, internists, gastroenterologists and other specialists.
On February 22, billionarie Richard Branson also announced a concert to “rally humanitarian aid for Venezuela.”
According to Branson 300,000 people are expected to attend the concert.
Branson said he has spoken to Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido and hopes the concert will help break Maduro’s blockade so the aid can reach Venezuelans suffering from chronic shortages of food and medicine.
President Donald Trump will say in a speech on Monday that Venezuela’s military officials should “work toward democracy” or risk losing everything they have.
“The United States knows where military officials and their families have money hidden throughout the world,” the White House said in describing what Trump planned to say.
The White House issued points from a speech Trump was to deliver in the Miami area later in the day, saying the president will say the Venezuelan military should let humanitarian aid into the country.
A group of conservative members of the European Parliament say they have been refused entry to Venezuela, where they were invited by Guaido.
“We are being expelled from Venezuela, our passports have been seized, they have not informed us of the reason for the expulsion,” said Spanish Member of the European Parliament (MEP) Esteban Gonzalez Pons, who led the group.
The other politicians were his compatriots Jose Ignacio Salafranca and Gabriel Mato Adrover, as well as Esther de Lange of the Netherlands and Paulo Rangel of Portugal.
All are members of the conservative European People’s Party (PPE).
Visiting the Colombia-Venezuela border, US Senator Marco Rubio declined to say if he would support US military action against Venezuela, warning Maduro of severe consuquences is he takes action against the opposition.
“There are certain lines and Maduro knows what they are,” the Republican politician told CNN, saying he was confident that Washington would not stand by if the Venezuelan government harmed or imprisoned Guaido.
“The consequences will be severe and they will be swift.”
Opposition leader Juan Guaido set a goal Sunday of enlisting a million volunteers within a week to confront a government blockade that has kept tons of humanitarian aid, most of it from the United States, from flowing into the country.
Food supplies, hygiene kits and nutritional supplements have been stockpiled near the Venezuelan border in Cucuta, Colombia.
Additional storage centers are supposed to open this week in Brazil and Curacao, a Dutch island off Venezuela’s northern Caribbean coast.
“Our principal task is to reach a million volunteers by February 23,” Guaido said in a message to the 600,000 supporters who have signed up so far for the push to bring aid in.
US Senator Marco Rubio has arrived at Colombian border town of Cucuta alongside the US ambassador to the Organization of the American States (OAS), Carlos Trujillo, and Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart.
The Senator said he was traveling for a first-hand look at the aid operation in the border town.
The Florida Republican’s visit comes after a second US cargo of humanitarian aid arrived at the Colombian border on Saturday.
More aid will arrive on Sunday, Rubio tweeted after he landed in Colombia.
Just toured the Scalabrini Center with my wife Jeanette, @MarioDB and @USAmbOAS. Very grateful to Father Francesco Bortignon for his work in helping the #Venezuelans in #Cúcuta. pic.twitter.com/hi6kfMw5rt
— Senator Rubio Press (@SenRubioPress) February 17, 2019
Russian lender Gazprombank has decided to freeze the accounts of Venezuelan state oil company PDVSA and halted transactions with the firm to reduce the risk of the bank falling under US sanctions, a Gazprombank source told Reuters on Sunday.
While many foreign firms have been cutting their exposure to PDVSA since the sanctions were imposed, the fact that a lender closely aligned with the Russian state is following suit is significant because the Kremlin has been among Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s staunchest supporters.
“PDVSA’s accounts are currently frozen. As you’ll understand, operations cannot be carried out,” the source said.
Gazprombank did not reply to a Reuters request for a comment.
The US military airlifted tons of aid to a Colombian town on the Venezuelan border on Saturday as part of an effort meant to undermine socialist President Nicolas Maduro and back his rival to leadership of the South American nation.
Two of three scheduled Air Force C-17 cargo planes that took off from Homestead Air Reserve Base in Florida had landed in Cucuta.
“This wasn’t the first, and it won’t be the last,” said USAID Administrator Mark Green, standing on the tarmac in Cucuta at a ceremony to receive the aid. “More is on the way.”
Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido on Saturday called for nationwide protests next week to support volunteers planning to travel to the border with Colombia to bring in US humanitarian aid.
“Not only will this be happening at the border where the volunteer movement will be, but in cities up and down the country where there will be demonstrations on February 23 for the aid to come in,” Guaido told thousands of supporters at a public gathering.
Translation: “Every day we are closer to February 23rd, the day the #Humanitarian Assistance will enter the country. The whole country calls on the military forces to take the side of the people, to let the #Humanitarian Assistance pass because this is also for them, for their families.”
Cada día estamos más cerca del #23F para que la #AyudaHumanitaria entre al país. Todo el país le hace un llamado a la FANB a ponerse del lado del pueblo, a dejar pasar la #AyudaHumanitaria porque esto también es por ellos, por sus familias.
¡Ayúdennos a salvar vidas!
— Juan Guaidó (@jguaido) February 16, 2019
US military transport planes carrying humanitarian aid meant for Venezuelans were set to land in the Colombian border city of Cucuta on Saturday, where food and medicine is being stored amidst uncertainty over how and where aid will be distributed.
The shipment will be the second arrival of large-scale US and international aid for Venezuelans, many of whom have scant access to food and medicine.
The US military will transport some 200 tonnes of humanitarian aid to Colombia to help relieve the crisis in neighboring Venezuela, according to a report citing a US defence official on Friday.
Speaking on condition of anonymity ahead of a formal announcement, the official said the aid would be sent in the coming days, most likely aboard a C-17 transport plane.
In a statement, the Pentagon said the US “remains deeply concerned about the crisis in Venezuela that has consequences for the entire region.”
The team of Venezuela’s opposition leader Juan Guaido is asking Citibank not to claim gold that was put up as collateral for a loan to the government of President Nicolas Maduro in a swap expiring in March, lawmaker Angel Alvarado said on Friday.
Investment bank and financial services company Citigroup, which owns Citibank, did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Reuters.
The US Treasury announced on Friday that it was imposing sanctions on five intelligence and security officials close Nicolas Maduro.
“Treasury continues to target officials who have helped the illegitimate Maduro regime repress the Venezuelan people,” a Treasury statement read.
Those sanctioned include: Rafael Enrique Bastardo Mendoza, Manuel Ricardo Cristopher Figuera, Ivan Rafael Hernandez Dala, Manuel Salvador Quevedo Fernandez and Hildemaro Jose Rodriguez Mucura. Quevedo Fernandez is Venezuela’s oil minister.
In an interview with Al Jazeera, Venezuela’s Maduro said the US is trying to destabilise his country and that efforts by the US-backed opposition to bring aid into the country are political theatre.
Maduro criticised European nations for supporting the possibility of US military intervention in his country citing their support of the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq.
“Was it necessary to intervene militarily in Iraq and divide it and kill millions of its people? I think they also made a mistake when they bombed Libya and killed more than 100,000 civilians. Can these errors be corrected? I also think they have also erred in a destructive policy approach in Syria, and are now making mistakes with Venezuela,” Maduro told Al Jazeera.
China has called for dialogue in resolving the ongoing political upheaval in Venezuela.
Geng Shuang, China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman, said that China, which backs Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, will continue to promote exchanges with Venezuela in various fields.
“Venezuela is an important economic and trade cooperation partner of China in Latin America,” Shuang said. “The two sides have also been in close cooperation on the principles of equality, mutual benefit, common development and commercial rules,” he added.
President Nicolas Maduro has invited a US special envoy to come to Venezuela after revealing in an interview with The Associated Press news agency that his foreign minister recently held secret meetings with the US official in New York.
The second of two meetings took place on February 11, four days after the envoy – Elliott Abrams – said the time for dialogue with Maduro’s government had long passed.
Even while criticising Trump’s confrontational stance toward his socialist government, Maduro said he holds out hope of meeting him to resolve an impasse over his recognition of Guaido.
Maduro said that while in New York, his foreign minister invited Abrams to come to Venezuela “privately, publicly or secretly.”
“If he wants to meet, just tell me when, where and how and I’ll be there,” Maduro told AP, without providing more details. He said both New York meetings lasted several hours.
There was no immediate comment from Washington.
Maduro said he would not give up power and called the US aid currently sitting on the border with Colombia mere “crumbs” following Washington’s move to freeze billions of dollars in Venezuela’s assets.
He blamed the economic sanctions imposed by the US against Venezuela for the severe food and medicine shortages in his country.
Venezuela’s Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza has announced the formation of a group that believes the UN Charter’s commitment to non-interference in another country’s affairs is being violated, particularly in the South American nation.
Arreaza was surrounded by diplomats from 16 countries including Russia, China, Iran, Syria, North Korea, Cuba and Nicaragua.
He told reporters at UN headquarters in New York on Thursday there were many more supporters.
Venezuela’s Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza says that “the momentum of the coup that the government of the United States was promoting is over – it didn’t happen”.
He told reporters at UN headquarters in New York on Thursday that the US needs to rethink its strategy because “the loyalty of our armed forces has already been proved”.
Arreaza dismissed a February 23 deadline set by self-declared president Juan Guaido to bring badly needed food and medicine into Venezuela, saying the opposition leader doesn’t control a single policeman and “whatever he says is absolutely absurd”.
He said President Nicolas Maduro controls the government and is the only one who can give deadlines. Maduro is blocking the aid, saying that Venezuelans are not beggars and that the move is part of a US-led coup.
Arreaza called the assistance a “spectacle that the US is organising” and denounced US sanctions against Venezuela.
“The US has blocked our economy,” he said. “The cost of this blockade is over $30bn – and they are sending this so-called humanitarian aid for $20m. So what is this? I’m choking you, I’m killing you, and then I’m giving you a cookie? So that’s a show.”
Venezuela’s chief prosecutor says he’s launched an investigation into opposition leader Juan Guaido’s appointment of a transitional board of directors for the state oil company.
Attorney General Tarek William Saab said Thursday in a news conference that Guaido’s appointments are part of an illegal power grab.
Saab says he’s investigating the board members designated to oversee PDVSA and its Houston-based subsidiary Citgo. He calls the appointments by Guaido and the National Assembly a “circus.”
Guaido has also appointed several ambassadors, including a representative to the United States.
Duque held a meeting with Carlos Vecchio, opposition leader and self-declared interim president Juan Guaido’s envoy at Blair House, across the street from the White House.
Colombia has said that the Venezuelan crisis, counter narcotics efforts and trade will be the main topics at a meeting between US President Donald Trump and Duque later on Wednesday afternoon.
Translation: #Washington we met with the Ambassador of the legitimate government of Venezuela @carlosvecchio We express our support for the restoration of democracy and [ we will help to] facilitate the supply of humanitarian aid for the Venezuelan brothers #DuqueEnEEUU, President Duque wrote.
#Washington #AEstaHora nos reunimos con Embajador del gobierno legítimo de Venezuela @carlosvecchio Expresamos nuestro apoyo para el restablecimiento de la democracia y facilitar en lo que sea necesario el suministro de ayuda humanitaria para los hermanos venezolanos #DuqueEnEEUU pic.twitter.com/d1mntCtQU0
— Iván Duque 🇨🇴 (@IvanDuque) February 13, 2019
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro threatened opposition leader Juan Guaido with facing the courts “sooner or later” for violating the constitution by anointing himself legitimate head-of-state, according to an interview published on Wednesday.
Maduro, speaking with Lebanese television channel al-Mayadeen TV, said Guaido was seeking to divide the country and convince the Trump administration to launch a foreign intervention.
“If the American empire dares to touch even one palm leaf in our territory, this will turn into a new Vietnam,” he said.
“This person, who believes that politics is a game and he can violate the constitution and the law, sooner or later will have to answer before the courts,” Maduro said, adding he was “absolutely sure” of this.
Congress will not support US military intervention in Venezuela despite comments hinting at such involvement by President Donald Trump, the Democratic chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee said on Wednesday.
“I do worry about the president’s saber rattling, his hints that US military intervention remains an option. I want to make clear to our witnesses and to anyone else watching: US military intervention is not an option,” US Representative Eliot Engel said at the opening of a hearing on the volatile political situation in the nation.
Engel also warned about the possible effects on the Venezuelan people of US sanctions on state oil company PDVSA . The United States in January imposed sanctions aimed at limiting President Nicolas Maduro‘s access to oil revenue.
President Donald Trump said on Wednesday that Venezuela’s leftist leader Nicolas Maduro is “making a terrible mistake” by blocking US humanitarian aid.
Trump said it was “sad” that the oil-rich Latin American country is in “turmoil” and said Washington has still not ruled out sending troops to the region.
“We look at all options,” he said. “You’ll see,” he said when asked if thousands of US troops could deploy.
Trump was meeting with Colombian President Ivan Duque at the White House to discuss the crisis in Venezuela.
Beijing refuted a Wall Street Journal report stating it was in talks with Venezuela’s opposition leader and self-declared interim president in order to protect its investments in the crisis-hit Latin American country.
“I think that [the journal’s] approach is not constructive nor is it professional,” Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Hua Chunying said on Wednesday.
“In fact, the report is false and it is fake news,” she said, adding that China sought a “political solution through dialogue and consultation” to Venezuela’s ongoing crisis.
The Journal had reported on Tuesday that Chinese officials met with representatives of opposition leader Juan Guaido in Washington to discuss Venezuela’s 20-billion-dollar debt to China and the status of joint projects.
Venezuela‘s foreign minister insisted at the United Nations on Tuesday that there is no humanitarian crisis in his country even as he announced plans to step up cooperation with UN agencies to help the economy.
Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza met on Monday with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres – their second meeting in a month.
The UN has said it stands ready to ramp up humanitarian aid to Venezuela but requires consent from Maduro’s government.
Arreaza told a news conference at UN headquarters, that the US has used aid as a political weapon against Venezuela.
“There isn’t a humanitarian crisis. There is an economy that is subject to a blockade,” he added, arguing that US sanctions were responsible for the economic problems and accusing the US of seeking regime change.
“A government that is threatening you with use of force, with invasion, with a blockade, that gives orders to other countries for them to block you, do they really want to provide you with humanitarian aid?” said Arreaza.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov warned his US counterpart Mike Pompeo against US interference, including “use of force”, in Venezuela.
“Lavrov has warned against all interference in Venezuela’s domestic affairs including the use of force threatened by Washington and which is in violation of international law,” the Russian foreign ministry said in a statement.
Opposition leader Juan Guaido has said he would renew diplomatic ties with Israel.
According to Israel Hayom newspaper, Guaido said in an interview that relations with Israel, which were suspended by late leader Hugo Chavez, are in the process of being stabilised.
He also said he is weighing whether Venezuela’s embassy to Israel should be relocated to Jerusalem.
According to a report released by the Wall Street Journal on Tuesday, China has been holding talks with Venezuela’s political opposition to safeguard its investments in the country.
Chinese diplomats, concerned over the future of its oil projects in Venezuela and nearly $20bn that Caracas owes Beijing, have held debt negotiations in Washington in recent weeks with representatives of Juan Guaido.
President Maduro has called on Britain to return “more than 80 tonnes of gold” reserves deposited in London instead of sending humanitarian aid.
The socialist leader told the BBC, according to a transcript made public Tuesday, that his country may have gold reserves weighing 80 tonnes or more deposited at the Bank of England.
Maduro said the gold is “legally Venezuela’s, it belongs to the Central Bank of Venezuela”.
“They should send a convoy with the dollars they’ve stolen from us,” said Maduro.
“Send a convoy with the 80 tonnes of gold. Let it come, the convoy of money, it’s our money. With that, we could solve our country’s problems.”
Venezuela’s opposition leader Juan Guaido announced on Tuesday that aid would be brought into the country on February 23, despite opposition from President Maduro.
US aid has been piling up in Colombia at the border with Venezuela but until now the bridge border crossing has been barricaded by the military, under Maduro’s orders.
Translation: Here is the happy youth!
Now ready to march to Plaza Bolivar on the Youth Day, following the example of Jose Felix Ribas, we celebrate with love and above all loyalty the Day of Youth, Pedro Infante (sports minister).
¡Aquí está la juventud alegre, de paz y futuro! 🙌🏽🇻🇪❤️
Ya listos para marchar hasta la Plaza Bolívar en el día de la Juventud, siguiendo el ejemplo del José Félix Ribas, celebramos con amor y sobre todo lealtad el día de la Juventud. 🇻🇪#JuventudInvencible @NicolasMaduro pic.twitter.com/ZT6A2RUSvP
— Pedro Infante A. (@pinfantea) February 12, 2019
The “Day of the Youth” is a commemoration of the participation of students in a 19th-century independence battle against colonial authorities.
Translation: Francisco de Miranda Avenue, opposition supporters gather near the stage to hear the speech of opposition leaders.
Ahora así está la Avenida Francisco de Miranda en la Calle Elice. Simpatizantes de la oposición se reúnen cerca de la tarima para escuchar discurso de dirigentes opositores. Vía @HectorAntolinez pic.twitter.com/rfDAlWk7se
— RCTV (@rctv) February 12, 2019
Juan Guaido: “Today the fight that Venezuela is waging is against hunger, against an inefficient health system, [the fight] is for our family to return to our country” (…) The usurper is called Maduro” RCTV (news media outlet).
Juan Guaidó: "Hoy la lucha que libra Venezuela es contra el hambre, contra un sistema de salud ineficiente, es para que nuestra familia regrese a nuestro país" (…) El usurpador se llama Maduro". pic.twitter.com/DG350tyOhN
— RCTV (@rctv) February 12, 2019
Translation: Youth is the Golden Generation of [today’s] Homeland that builds the future of the Revolution along with President @NicolasMaduro, the government’s Customs Administration Service wrote.
— SENIAT (@SENIAT_Oficial) February 12, 2019
Translation: Marches against the regime and Maduro in support of humanitarian aid, a supporter writes.
Caracas. Marcha contra el régimen de Maduro y en apoyo a la ayuda humanitaria pic.twitter.com/XxowlvFjgr
— Venezolano en pie (@venezolanoenpie) February 12, 2019
President Maduro called for a march on Tuesday to denounce foreign intervention in Venezuela’s affairs.
According to Telesure, a media network, his supporters will go from Plaza Morelos to Plaza Bolivar in Caracas to commemorate the Day of the Youth, and to support of the “Bolivarian Revolution” and Maduro.
“We will defend the Homeland of the imperial pretensions of violating our sovereignty, Happy Youth Day!” Maduro said this morning in a speech addressing supporters.
Translation: Venezuelans are massively concentrated in Plaza Morelos, Caracas, in defence of #Venezuela’s peace and in commemoration of the Youth Day.
#ENVIDEO📽️ | Venezolanos se concentran masivamente desde la Plaza Morelos en #Caracas, en defensa de la paz de #Venezuela y en conmemoración del Día de la Juventud #JuventudInvencible pic.twitter.com/2vqPgErypl
— teleSUR TV (@teleSURtv) February 12, 2019
Translation: The patriotic youth is in the front line, as 205 years ago in La Victoria. Today, together with the spirit of Jose Felix Ribas, we will defend the Homeland from the imperial pretensions of violating our sovereignty. Happy Youth Day!
La juventud patriota está en la primera línea, como hace 205 años en La Victoria. Hoy, junto al espíritu de José Félix Ribas, defenderemos la Patria de las pretensiones imperiales de vulnerar nuestra Soberanía. ¡Feliz Día de la Juventud! pic.twitter.com/TXsDV76Cfz
— Nicolás Maduro (@NicolasMaduro) February 12, 2019
Venezuela’s opposition supporters will take to the streets nationwide on Tuesday to keep the heat on an embattled Nicolas Maduro and to demand he allow humanitarian aid into the country where food and medicine shortages are rife.
The rallies will take place nearly three weeks from the day that opposition leader Juan Guaido invoked a constitutional provision to declare himself Venezuela’s legitimate president, arguing that Maduro’s re-election last year was a sham.
The 35-year-old Guaido is coordinating Western relief efforts, while Maduro, who denies there is a crisis, is blocking supplies from coming in.
“We will return to the streets … to demand the entry of humanitarian aid that will save the lives of more than 300,000 Venezuelans that today are at risk of dying,” Guaido said on Twitter late Monday. “This is a time to unite and fight!”
¡Hoy de nuevo a las calles!#12Feb Con la fuerza de la juventud estaremos exigiendo que ingrese la ayuda humanitaria y honrando la memoria de tantos jóvenes que han caído luchando por la libertad de Venezuela#VamosBienVzla#JuventudSiempreLibre#FANBTambiénEsPorTí
— Juan Guaidó (@jguaido) February 12, 2019
Opposition supporters at the rally said they are eager to see a change in the country.
“Finally we see a light at the end of the tunnel, I believe that none of the students here has had the facility to study, it has been difficult for everyone, it is a way of manifesting the discontent that we currently live.” Elena Davila, a 21-year-old student, told Al Jazeera.
Maduro denounced attempts to deliver aid as a US-orchestrated show to undermine and overthrow his government. US supplies were among the first delivered to a collection point established in the Colombian border town of Cucuta.
“The Ku Klux Klan governing the White House today wants to take possession of Venezuela,” Maduro said in an interview with the BBC.
“Venezuela is not a country of famine. In the west, Venezuela’s situation is distorted to justify any sort of intervention,” he said.
Guaido has vowed that the opposition, which he has regalvanised after several years of infighting, will keep protesting to pressure Maduro to step down so new presidential elections can be held.
Translation: This is the road 19 with street 9, in front of the UCLA in Barquisimeto, in the protests convened by Juan Guaido, on the Day of the Youth, Elimpulso (Venezuelan media outlet).
10:15 AM Así se encuentra la carrera 19 con calle 9, frente al rectorado de la UCLA de Barquisimeto, en la concentración convocada por el Presidente (E) Juan Guaidó, en el Día de la Juventud.
Video: Gisela Carmona#ElImpulso #12Feb #Díadelajuventud pic.twitter.com/baI3by9vcw
— Elimpulso.com (@elimpulsocom) February 12, 2019
The opposition will also hold an all-night vigil on Tuesday in a Caracas square to demand that Maduro let aid in.
With additional reporting by Alicia Hernandez in Caracas.
A senior Russian diplomat says Venezuela hasn’t asked Russia for military assistance amid the South American country’s political crisis.
Alexander Shchetinin, head of the Russian Foreign Ministry’s Latin America department, said on Monday that Moscow hasn’t received any such request from Caracas, according to Russian news reports.
Shchetinin strongly warned the US against calling on the Venezuelan military to drop support for President Maduro, saying it represented an “unthinkable meddling into foreign affairs of a sovereign nation”.
Nicolas Maduro has sought OPEC support against US sanctions imposed on his country’s oil industry, citing their impact on oil prices and potential risks for other members of the producer group, Reuters reported on Monday.
The request was made in a letter sent to OPEC Secretary-General Mohammad Barkindo dated January 29 and seen by Reuters.
“Our country hopes to receive the solidarity and full support of the member countries of OPEC and its ministerial Conference, in the fight we are currently having against the illegal and arbitrary intrusion of the United States in the internal affairs of Venezuela,” Maduro wrote.
Venezuelan opposition representative Maria Teresa Belandria was received as her country’s official ambassador in Brazil on Monday, and said Brazil’s government will provide all possible support to get humanitarian aid to the border.
Belandria told reporters several Brazilian government agencies will be involved in the aid operation, which would open up a second route for food and medicine to enter Venezuela after the main one in Colombia.
The aid to be sent to the Brazilian state of Roraima, bordering Venezuela, would not only come from the US, but also from Brazil’s government, private companies and other nations, she said.
Asked whether the Venezuelan military will allow the aid into the country, Lester Toledo, coordinator for international humanitarian aid and an opposition state legislator, replied: “The soldiers know this is food that will go to the children.”
The resolution also expresses “full support for the National Assembly as the only democratically elected institution in Venezuela”, according to a copy of the text obtained by the AFP news agency.
The US move triggered a Russian counterproposal, which contains language expressing concern for Venezuela’s territorial integrity and political independence.
Russia’s draft resolution criticises any “attempts to intervene in matters which are essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of Venezuela”.
Read more here.
Venezuelan doctors have called on their nation’s military to allow humanitarian aid into the country, the AP news agency reported.
About two dozen doctors held a protest on Sunday in neighbouring Colombia, in front of the entrance to a bridge that has been blocked by the Venezuelan military.
Aid including food and emergency medical supplies provided by the US is sitting in a storage facility near the bridge.
Venezuela’s opposition is pledging to get the assistance into the country but President Nicolas Maduro has vowed not to accept it.
Maduro contends the aid delivery is part of a larger US intervention to remove him from power.
Venezuela‘s state-run oil company Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA) is taking steps to remove at least two American board members of its US‘s refining subsidiary, Citgo Petroleum Corp, the Reuters news agency reported, citing people close to the matter.
Citgo is facing unprecedented challenges to its finances and management after the US government last week imposed tough sanctions on PDVSA designed to prevent oil revenue from going to leftist President Nicolas Maduro.
The US and dozens of other nations have refused to recognise Maduro, viewing his re-election last year to another six-year term as fraudulent.
Venezuelan’s self-proclaimed president Juan Guaido is setting up bank accounts with US help that would take income accrued by Citgo, Venezuela’s top foreign asset, to finance an interim government, Reuters reported.
Read more here.
Venezuela should resolve its own matters itself via peaceful talks and China supports the international community’s efforts in this regard, the Chinese foreign ministry said.
Offering a counterpoint to Washington’s hardline stance, the EU and a group of Latin American governments that have kept a moderate line on Venezuela called for dialogue and fresh elections.
The EU-backed International Contact Group on Venezuela in its inaugural meeting in the Uruguayan capital of Montevideo this week said overly forceful intervention could aggravate the crisis.
Responding to that meeting, China’s foreign ministry said in a statement late on Friday that China supported the efforts of the international community on the peaceful settlement of the Venezuela issue and hoped all parties would continue to play a constructive role.
“Venezuela’s affairs should be resolved by its people within the framework of the constitution and the law through peaceful dialogue and political channels,” the ministry said.
“Only this way can Venezuela realising lasting stability.”
US humanitarian aid destined for Venezuela was being prepared at a warehouse on the Colombian border on Friday, as opposition leader Juan Guaido assured his countrymen that supplies would reach them despite objections from embattled President Nicolas Maduro.
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said the US-backed humanitarian aid being stockpiled in the Colombian border city of Cucuta for his country should be distributed to poor Colombians as Venezuelans are not “beggars”.
The day after trucks carrying medicine and food arrived in Cucuta, Maduro, who has become increasingly isolated internationally, told a news conference that Venezuela did not need the aid that includes supplies provided by the US.
“Venezuela won’t allow the spectacle of fake humanitarian aid because we’re no-one’s beggars,” Maduro said.
“Venezuela is not suffering the humanitarian crisis fabricated by Washington over the last four years to justify intervening in our country.”
He blamed the shortage of food and medicine on US sanctions, which mostly target regime individuals as well as state oil company PDVSA.
“Liberate the money that has been blocked and sequestered,” said Maduro. “This is a macabre game: we squeeze them by the neck and make them ask for crumbs.”
He said the aid offer was “a message of humiliation for the people.”
A hospital in Venezuela has said 14 children have died this week following an outbreak of amoebiasis, a form of dysentery transmitted by contaminated food or water.
Dozens of other children infected by the disease can not receive adequate treatment due to a lack of medical supplies, employees at the Luis Razetti hospital in the coastal city of Barcelona told Al Jazeera on Thursday.
The staff at the hospital, located 300km east of Caracas, granted Al Jazeera access to the wards because they said they wanted the world to see that they are unequipped to save children’s lives.
Marleea Marino lost her two-month-old baby this week as a result of the outbreak, but his body remains in the hospital because she has not been able to get the money needed to buy a coffin.
“There is nothing here, they have no medicine, they don’t have food,” she said. “And now my son is dead.”
Read more here.
Demonstrators at the Colombian-Venuzelan border welcomed an aid convoy carrying food and medicine from the US by blowing horns and chanting slogans calling for a change in crisis-hit Venezuela.
Venezuela has rejected the aid delivery, which was organised by the US and Venezuelan opposition leaders, barricading its own side of the border and vowing not to allow entry.
At Tienditas bridge, Luigi Rivas, a 31-year-old Venezuelan migrant, brandished a cardboard sign reading “humanitarian aid now”.
“It is a cowardly action he’s made,” Rivas told Al Jazeera, referring to Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s bridge closure.
Read more here.
The Trump administration is imposing a ban on travel to the US for members of Venezuela’s constituent assembly, a body controlled by President Nicolas Maduro and denounced by the opposition as illegitimate, a senior US official said on Thursday.
Elliott Abrams, Washington’s special envoy on Venezuela, said the time for dialogue with Maduro “has long passed”, except to negotiate his departure, and reinforced US backing for opposition leader Juan Guaido, who swore himself in as interim president last month and earned recognition from the US and a number of other countries.
The first trucks carrying humanitarian aid meant to cross the border into Venezuela arrived in the Colombian border city of Cucuta on Thursday, where officials were to await instructions on how to distribute the food and medicine.
Escorted by police motorcycles, the trucks pulled into the northern city, where desperate Venezuelans were waiting to see whether President Nicolas Maduro’s government would clear the border road he has blocked and allow the humanitarian shipments to pass.
Opposition leader Guaido asks Italy’s ruling coalition to meet with representatives as he seeks their explicit backing as interim president.
Far-right Italian deputy prime minister Matteo Salvini has criticised Maduro as “a criminal” and “an outlaw”.
But prominent members of coalition partner Five Star Movement, such as Alessandro Di Battista, have expressed hesitancy over recognising Guaido.
Maduro’s administration has also not been able to move money between its accounts in banks in the European Union since Monday, opposition legislator Carlos Paparoni said.
Venezuela’s Information Ministry did not immediately respond to a request to comment, reported Reuters.
The US has sent food and medicine to Colombia‘s border with Venezuela, US officials said on Tuesday. It is still unclear, however, how the aid will get past the objections of President Nicolas Maduro, who has blocked shipments in the past.
Two officials who spoke on condition of anonymity said the aid will be staged at the main Colombian-Venezuelan border crossing at Cucuta. One official said more supplies would be staged in Brazil and in the Caribbean.
“I anticipate having perhaps a dozen locations all around Venezuela where such aid will be staged,” the official said.
The US officials said trucks carrying the aid, including high-protein foods, would arrive in Cucuta this week at the request of Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido, who last month declared himself to be the South American nation’s interim president.
Mexico’s government said it is not defending Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro after European nations, the US and others recognised opposition leader Juan Guaido as the South American country’s legitimate head of state.
“We don’t defend Maduro or his regime, nor are we taking a political position, we want there to be dialogue,” Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard said in an interview with local television. “We’re not taking sides, everyone can have their point of view.”
Major European countries on Monday joined most members of the Lima Group, including Argentina, Brazil and Canada, supporting Guaido as interim Venezuelan leader and calling for free elections.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres says he has been in contact with supporters of the rival initiatives to deal with the Venezuela crisis and has decided the United Nations won’t be part of any of them.
He told reporters on Monday that he took the decision “in order to give credibility to our continued offer of good offices to the parties to be able at their request to help find a political solution”.
Guterres said he has been following the evolution of the situation in Venezuela with “a lot of concern”.
The presidents of Mexico and Uruguay have offered to negotiate between socialist President Maduro and opposition leader Juan Guaido. But Guaido rejected the offer.
A coalition of Western Hemisphere nations is urging Venezuela’s military to allow badly needed food and medicine to enter the country as the bloc pushes for a peaceful transition of power in the South American nation.
The call came Monday from the Lima Group, made up of nearly a dozen conservative Latin American countries and Canada. It has led the push to recognize opposition leader Juan Guaido as Venezuela’s rightful leader and seeks ways to remove President Maduro.
The coalition met on Monday in Ottawa, Canada and issued a declaration saying Venezuela’s soldiers must show loyalty to Guaido. The group also said the United Nations and the international community should be ready to step in with humanitarian assistance for Venezuela.
Further, the bloc dismissed the idea of opening negotiations with Maduro, who has used past talks as a stalling tactic.
Guaido says the opposition will hold an international conference to seek emergency humanitarian assistance at the headquarters of the Organization of American States in Washington, DC.
Carlos Vecchio was recently designated as ambassador to Washington by Guaido.
Dozens of countries have now recognized Guaido as interim president, but many others back Maduro, who holds practical power in the country.
President Nicolas Maduro is again rejecting moves by at least eight European nations recognising opposition leader Juan Guaido as Venezuela’s legitimate president.
Germany, the UK and France are among the nations that announced support for Guaido on Monday. The EU nations say Maduro’s election was fraudulent and that he ignored their deadline to announce a new round of democratic presidential elections.
Maduro was especially harsh on Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, a fellow socialist. Maduro said Sanchez would have “blood on his hands” if a coup is carried out against him.
In a live address on state television, Maduro said he refuses ultimatums from any country and rejects a US-backed effort to send emergency food and medicine into his country, saying Venezuela isn’t a nation of beggars.
Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido said on Monday the government of President Nicolas Maduro was trying to move up to $1.2bn from state development bank Bandes to a financial entity in Uruguay, though he did not present evidence.
Venezuela’s Information Ministry did not immediately respond to a request to comment.
Guaido, in a televised speech, called on the Uruguayan government to not allow the operation, which he denounced as the “theft of public funds.”
European Parliament President Antonio Tajani is pressing Italy’s populist government to side with other EU countries on Venezuela.
He told reporters Monday in Rome that Italy’s coalition government should heed the words of Italian President Sergio Mattarella, who earlier in the day urged Italy to adopt a shared position with EU partners and allies.
At least 12 EU countries have recognised Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido as interim president, rejected the legitimacy of socialist President Nicolas Maduro.
Italy’s squabbling government coalition hasn’t joined them, calling instead for reconciliation and new and free elections in Venezuela.
Tajani slammed the Italian government position as “very grave” and urged it to follow Mattarella’s “very clear’ message for EU unity on Venezuela’s political crisis.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says Canada will give $53m in humanitarian aid for Venezuelans who he says are living under a “dictatorship willing to use force and fear” to maintain its power.
He says the money will go to “trusted partners in neighbouring countries to help them support Venezuela and Venezuelans”.
The announcement came during a meeting in Ottawa of the Lima Group that includes countries from the Americas that oppose socialist President Nicolas Maduro and recognise opposition leader Juan Guaido as the country’s legitimate interim leader.
Two dozen foreign affairs ministers, ambassadors and other officials from the Americas and Europe were taking part.
Italy on Monday blocked a European Union statement saying that the bloc’s member states would recognise Venezuela’s National Assembly head Juan Guaido as interim president, diplomatic sources told Reuters news agency.
That came after days of sparring between the 28 EU states on how to address the situation in Venezuela. Eight EU countries on Monday recognised Guaido, but Italy’s opposition has prevented a unified EU stance.
Britain is looking at options including sanctions to bring about peace and democracy in Venezuela, Prime Minister Theresa May’s spokesman said on Monday.
“Venezuelan people deserve a better future, they have suffered enough and the Maduro regime must end. It is time for free and fair elections,” the spokesman told reporters.
“We are looking at what further steps we can take to ensure peace and democracy in Venezuela including through sanctions.”
Russia has criticised what it said were attempts to interfere in Venezuela’s domestic affairs after major European countries recognised Juan Guaido as the South American country’s interim leader.
“Attempts to legitimise usurped power” constituted “interference in Venezuela’s internal affairs,” President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Monday.
Such interference, he added, could not facilitate the “peaceful, effective and lasting settlement of the crisis the Venezuelans are going through”.
Peskov reiterated Moscow’s position that only the people of Venezuela could solve the crisis “which they should get through on their own”.
France, Germany, Austria, Sweden and Denmark have joined Britain and Spain in recognising Venezuela’s opposition leader Juan Guaido as interim president of the South American country.
The coordinated move from the major European nations came after the expiry of an eight-day deadline they set last weekend for President Nicolas Maduro to call a new presidential vote.
In a Twitter post on Monday, French President Emmanuel Macron said his country recognises Guaido as an “acting president to implement an electoral process”.
Les Vénézuéliens ont le droit de s’exprimer librement et démocratiquement. La France reconnaît @jguaido comme « président en charge » pour mettre en œuvre un processus électoral. Nous soutenons le Groupe de contact, créé avec l’UE, dans cette période de transition.
— Emmanuel Macron (@EmmanuelMacron) February 4, 2019
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, during a visit to Japan, said Guaido, who heads the opposition-led National Assembly, “is the legitimate interim president”.
Sebastian Kurz, Austria’s chancellor, also tweeted that Guaido can rely on Austria’s “full support in his efforts to re-establish democracy in Venezuela”.
Cuenta con nuestro pleno apoyo en sus esfuerzos para restablecer la democracia en #Venezuela, que sufre desde hace demasiado tiempo una mala gestión socialista y una ausencia de Estado de derecho.
— Sebastian Kurz (@sebastiankurz) February 4, 2019
Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom told Swedish radio that Stockholm supports and considers Guaido as “a legitimate and interim president” given Maduro’s refusal to hold a snap election.
“Denmark recognises the President of the National Assembly … until new free and democratic elections take place,” Anders Samuelsen, the country’s foreign minister, tweeted ahead of a meeting with EU counterparts in Brussels.
Netherlands, Latvia and Lithuania also threw their support behind Guaido.
Spain and the United Kingdom have recognised Juan Guaido as acting leader of Venezuela after President Nicolas Maduro rejected an ultimatum by European countries to call snap elections.
“The Spanish government announces that it officially recognises Venezuela’s National Assembly president, Mr Guaido Marquez, as acting president of Venezuela,” Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez told reporters on Monday, calling on Guaido to hold a new presidential election quickly.
Jeremy Hunt, Britain’s foreign secretary, said the UK backs Guaido as “interim constitutional president until credible elections can be held”.
In a Twitter post on Monday, Hunt said he hoped the move will help end Venezuela’s humanitarian crisis.
Nicolas Maduro has not called Presidential elections within 8 day limit we have set. So UK alongside European allies now recognises @jguaido as interim constitutional president until credible elections can be held. Let’s hope this takes us closer to ending humanitarian crisis
— Jeremy Hunt (@Jeremy_Hunt) February 4, 2019
Spain, France, Germany, Britain, the Netherlands, Portugal and Austria have said if Maduro does not call snap elections they will recognise Guaido as Venezuela’s legitimate president.
The eight-day deadline ran out on Sunday.
France also responded to Maduro’s refusal to hold elections, with Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian telling radio France Inter that Paris will “now take all necessary” measures.
He did not elaborate.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has held a phone conversation with Guaido, praising his “courage and leadership”, according to a statement.
The conversation a day before a meeting of the 14-nation Lima Group – made up of Canada and Latin American countries – in Ottawa. Eleven of its members, including Canada, have recognised Guaido.
“The two leaders discussed the importance of the international community sending a clear message regarding the illegitimacy of the Maduro regime and the need to respect the Venezuelan Constitution,” a readout of the call from Trudeau’s office said.
“Both underscored the importance that free and fair Presidential elections be held. The Prime Minister commended Juan Guaido for his courage and leadership in helping to return democracy to Venezuela and offered Canada’s continued support.”
Trudeau added that the Lima Group meeting “will consider how the international community can further support the people of Venezuela, including through immediate humanitarian assistance”.
In an interview with Spanish television station Sexta, Maduro has rejected a call by European countries to organise elections following Guaido’s move to declare himself as interim president.
Maduro said he would not “cave in to pressure” by those calling for his departure.
“They are trying to corner us with ultimatums to force us into an extreme situation of confrontation,” Maduro said.
Spain, France, Germany, Britain, the Netherlands, Portugal and Austria have said if Maduro does not call snap elections they will recognise Guaido as Venezuela’s legitimate president.
Russia’s foreign ministry said the international community should focus on helping to solve Venezuela’s economic and social problems and refrain from any “destructive” interference, Interfax news agency reported.
“The international community’s goal should be to help (Venezuela solve socio-economic problems), without destructive meddling from beyond its borders,” Alexander Shchetinin, head of the ministry’s Latin American department, was cited by Interfax as saying.
“Certainly it’s something that’s on the – it’s an option,” Trump said in an interview broadcast on Sunday on the CBS “Face the Nation” programme. “Well [Nicolas Maduro] has requested a meeting and I have turned it down because we’re very far along in the process.”
European and Latin American countries that form an “international contact group” hoping to end Venezuela’s political crisis will hold their first meeting in Montevideo on Thursday, the joint hosts announced Sunday.
The meeting will be at the ministerial level, said a statement from EU diplomatic chief Federica Mogherini and Uruguayan President Tabare Vazquez.
“The IGC aims at contributing to create conditions for a political and peaceful process to emerge, enabling Venezuelans to determine their own future, through the holding of free, transparent and credible elections, in line with the country’s Constitution,” said the statement.
The contact group comprises the EU and eight of its member states – France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom – and four Latin American countries: Bolivia, Costa Rica, Ecuador and Uruguay.
#Venezuela "We have decided the establishment of an international contact group" says @FedericaMog. The objective of this group will be to help achieve a peaceful & democratic solution through fresh credible elections. First ministerial meeting next week. pic.twitter.com/cy9ydY85An
— European External Action Service – EEAS 🇪🇺 (@eu_eeas) January 31, 2019
France will recognise Guaido as interim president if Maduro does not announce a presidential vote by Sunday night, France’s European affairs minister said.
“If by tonight, (President) Maduro does not commit to organising presidential elections, then France will consider Juan Guaido as legitimate to organise them in his place and we will consider him as the interim president until legitimate elections in Venezuela (take place),” Nathalie Loiseau told LCI television on Sunday.
She dismissed Maduro’s proposal of an early parliamentary election as a “farce”.
A top White House official on Saturday called on Venezuela’s military to follow the lead of a general who sided with opposition leader Juan Guaido against President Nicolas Maduro.
“The US calls on all military members to follow General Yanez’s lead, and to protect the peaceful protestors supporting democracy,” National Security Advisor John Bolton said in a tweet.
Another Venezuelan military officer recognizes the legitimate President of VZ. The US calls on all military members to follow General Yánez’s lead, and to protect the peaceful protestors supporting democracy. https://t.co/dfFtN1mbEV
— John Bolton (@AmbJohnBolton) February 2, 2019
Earlier on Saturday, General Yanez, high-ranking Venezuelan air force official, withdrew his support of Maduro, claiming that 90 percent of the military is no longer supporting the president.
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has remained defiant following the defections of at least two military officials while declaring his support for fresh parliamentary elections.
In a speech to tens of thousands of supporters on Saturday, Maduro declared that he supports the National Assembly’s proposal, saying, “Let’s go for elections”.
Elections for the opposition-controlled National Assembly are not supposed to take place again until 2020.
In the same speech, the president denounced the interventionist policy of the US and the administration of President Donald Trump.
“A wave of global consciousness is rising in the face of daily threats against the White House warmongers,” Maduro said.
Maduro and opposition leader, Juan Guaido are holding competing rallies in capital Caracas on Saturday, as they tried to rally support on their side.
Earlier on Saturday, a high-ranking Venezuelan air force official, General Francisco Yanez, withdrew his support of Maduro and recognised Guaido as interim head-of-state.
Later in the day, another military officer in active service, Lieutenant Colonel Andres Eloy Volcan, also declared his support of Guaido and urged other military officers to follow him and “restore democracy.
But Maduro dismissed the call saying, “The Bolivarian armed forces are more loyal than ever under my command.”
He insisted that he was the rightful president of Venezuela and that he would continue to govern.
Opposition leader, Juan Guaido, who declared himself as the country’s president, has announced that humanitarian aid for Venezuela will enter through Colombia, Brazil and a Caribbean island.
Guaido made the statement on Saturday, as he addressed an anti-government rally in the capital, Caracas.
In his speech, he also urged the military to side with the Constitution and called on them not to target the demonstrators.
Guaido also said that the month of February could prove to be the “determining point” of Venezuela’s freedom.
Reports say more than 100,000 Venezuelans attended Guaido’s rally.
Another military officer has defected from the government of President Nicolas Maduro and recognised opposition leader, Juan Guaido, as president.
Andres Eloy Volcan, an active lieutenant colonel of the armed forces, urged his fellow military officers to follow him and “restore democracy.
#URGENTE #AlMomento #Aragua Teniente Coronel ACTIVO de La Fuerza Armada Nacional Andres Eloy Volcan RECONOCE A @jguaido como Presidente (E) y emplaza a sus compañeros de armas a restaurar la Democracia. pic.twitter.com/IV05VuLD55
— Carlos Dordelly (@CarlosDordelly) February 2, 2019
Volcan made the statement during an appearance in Aragua, just outside of the capital, Caracas. A video of the statement was posted on social media.
Demonstrators have taken to the streets of Caracas to renew their call for President Nicolas Maduro to resign.
Luisa Blanco, 51, a resident of a Caracas suburb, told Al Jazeera on Saturday that she can “smell the hope” that Maduro would resign.
“Maduro needs to leave. We cannot go on with so much misery. We are going to die of hunger,” she said.
In Chacaito, one of the starting points of the demonstration in the Venezuela capital, Yurvis Urdaneta, 28, said he likes opposition leader Juan Guaido.
“He seems to be a nice young man. I think he wants to do it right. But we have also been wrong in the past, and we have been tricked before. So I don’t know wha is going to happen.”
There are also demonstrations in other parts of the country, including the major cities of Maracaibo and Barquisimeto.
A high-ranking Venezuelan air force general said he had disavowed President Nicolas Maduro and now recognised opposition leader Juan Guaido as interim head-of-state, according to a video circulating on Twitter on Saturday.
In the video, General Francisco Yanez, a member of the air force’s high command, called on other members of the military to defect. He also reportedly claimed that 90 percent of the armed forces no longer support Maduro.
The high command’s web page lists Yanez, along with a photo, as the air force’s head of strategic planning.
On its Twitter account, the high command of the military accused the general of treason.
ATENCIÓN: General de División Francisco Estéban Yánez Rodríguez, Director de Planificación Estratégica del Alto Mando Militar de la Aviación, reconoce a Juan Guaidó como Presidente (E) de Venezuela. #2Feb pic.twitter.com/Uz4fOixsvq
— Gabriel Bastidas (@Gbastidas) February 2, 2019
Yanez is the first active Venezuelan general to recognise Guaido since he proclaimed himself president on Jan. 23.
Al Jazeera’s Latin America editor Lucia Newman, reporting from Caracas, said the defection of the first active general is “another blow” to the Maduro administration.
“Juan Guaido has been publicly appealing to the armed forces to defect, to abandon Nicolas Maduro, whose main support comes from the military. Without it, he would have a difficult time to stay in power.”
But the question now is whether Yanez commands a number of troops, and orders members of the armed forces to follow him, our correspondent said.
US Vice President Mike Pence, working to ramp up pressure for the ouster of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, told a rally on Friday that the time for dialogue had ended and all options were on the table to replace Maduro’s government.
“This is no time for dialogue. This is time for action,” Pence told a cheering crowd at a campaign-style rally. “The time has come to end the Maduro dictatorship once and for all.”
The US government has recognised opposition leader Juan Guaido as Venezuela’s interim president and has called for other countries to do so as well.
Guaido on Friday made public a letter that he is sending to both leaders. He urged them to be on the right side of history, saying that remaining neutral in the political struggle aligns them with Maduro.
Translation: We ratify to the governments of Mexico and Uruguay our position in restoring the constitutional order in Venezuela. We have a clear route.
Ratificamos a los gobiernos de México y Uruguay nuestra posición de restituir el orden constitucional en Venezuela. Tenemos una ruta clara:
1. Cese de la usurpación
2. Gobierno de transición
3. Elecciones libres
¡Únanse a nuestro llamado democrático! pic.twitter.com/88QScWUIUq
— Juan Guaidó (@jguaido) February 1, 2019
Turkish officials told their US counterparts that Turkish trade – with Venezuela – is in accordance with international laws and regulations, a Turkish official said on Friday, a day after reports of Washington monitoring trade between Turkey and Venezuela.
A senior US official said on Thursday that Washington would take action if it judges that trade between its NATO ally and Venezuela violates sanctions.
During meetings between officials from Turkey’s Finance Ministry and the US Treasury, the two sides also discussed measures to boost bilateral trade, the official said.
Asked if US military intervention was imminent – or by Brazil or Colombia or a combination of all three nations – Trump adviser John Bolton told the Hugh Hewitt radio show: “No.”
Venezuela will sell 15 tonnes of gold from central bank vaults to the United Arab Emirates in coming days in return for euros in cash, a senior official with knowledge of the plan has told the Reuters news agency, in an effort by the troubled OPEC member to stay solvent.
The sale this year of gold reserves that back the bolivar currency began with a shipment on January 26 of 3 tonnes, the official said, and follows the export last year of $900m of mostly unrefined gold to Turkey.
In total, the plan is to sell 29 tonnes of gold held in Caracas by February, the source said, requesting anonymity in order to speak freely.
Venezuela had reserves of 132 tonnes between the central bank’s vaults and the Bank of England at the end of November, according to central bank data.
.@UAEEmbassyUS, we have reports that a French national working for @noor_capital is in Caracas today to arrange for the theft of more Gold from #Venezuela. I hope you have advised them that they & any air charter service that does this will be subject to Treasury sanctions.
— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) January 31, 2019
In an interview with The Associated Press, Guaido said he will defy a government ban on humanitarian assistance, including medicine, by sending large convoys of medicine into the country with the help of neighbouring states
The opposition leader described the plan as a “new test” for Venezuela’s armed forces, whose top brass has sided with Maduro.
“In a few weeks, they will have to choose if they let much-needed aid into the country or if they side with Nicolas Maduro,” said Guaido, who recently offered an amnesty to members of the military in another effort to encourage them to defect.
Guaido said the aid will be shipped into “friendly ports” in neighbouring countries then transported by vehicles arriving at several border points.
“We are not just taking aid from the United States,” Guaido said. “But in the next few days, we will announce a global coalition to send aid to Venezuela.”
The UN says Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has responded to a letter sent via Twitter by the president of Venezuela’s opposition-controlled National Assembly, Juan Guaido.
UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said Thursday that Guterres reiterated the offer of his “good offices” to find a political solution to the current crisis and emphasised his public concern about the situation and its impact on the Venezuelan people.
Guaido declared himself Venezuela’s interim president last week and asked for international humanitarian assistance coordinated by the UN in the letter dated January 26.
Dujarric said Guterres responded that “the United Nations is ready to increase its activities in Venezuela in the areas of humanitarian assistance and development.”
But Dujarric said the secretary-general told Guaido that to do this the United Nations needs “the consent and the cooperation” of Nicolas Maduro’s government, which is recognised by the UN
Spain’s state-run EFE news agency says three of its journalists have been freed after being detained overnight in Venezuela’s capital.
EFE reported Thursday that the journalists are with Spain’s assistant consul in Venezuela.
According to the news agency, Colombian photographer Leonardo Munoz disappeared Wednesday while on assignment and two other journalists were later taken from their office by members of Venezuela’s intelligence agency.
Two French journalists were also freed from detention on Thursday, and two Chilean journalists were ordered deported.
A union for Venezuelan journalists says that officials detained 19 journalists in January as the nation reels from political unrest.
Juan Guaido said that agents from the Special Actions Force (FAES) unit were at his home, in a sign of increasing pressure on the opposition leader.
“I will hold you responsible for any intimidation of my baby, who is just 20 months old,” Guaido said at the end of a public event. He then left for home, asking diplomats to accompany him.
Translation: “At this moment the FAES is at my home. I make the citizen Nicolas Maduro responsible for the integrity of my daughter who is there,” he wrote.
En este momento el FAES está en mi domicilio, en mi casa familiar. Hago responsable al ciudadano Nicolás Maduro, por la integridad de mi hija que allí se encuentra.
— Juan Guaidó (@jguaido) January 31, 2019
Neighbours rushed to the high-rise apartment building banging pots and pans. The police appeared to leave shortly after they arrived.
Juan Guaido, leader of the opposition-controlled National Assembly, has arrived at the Central University of Venezuela for the presentation of his “National Plan.”
Different members of civil society and the National Assembly participated in the conference.
Guaido assured that all Venezuelans are needed in order to build a plan that works.”The armed forces have an important role [here],” he said.
He thanked the European Parliament for its support and said the [opposition] is taking all the necessary steps for succeeding.
We don’t have “economic resources, but we have the people,” he added.
According to Guaido, the priorities are: 1) coordination of humanitarian assistance, 2) restoration of public services, 3) reduction of dependency on subsidies.
Translation: Today we present #PlanPaís. The route for the country we want to build together. We have the agreement, the will and the professionals to immediately address the problems of Venezuelans, Guaido wrote on Twitter.
¡Respuestas concretas y planificación para Venezuela!
Hoy presentamos #PlanPaís. La ruta para el país que queremos construir entre todos. Contamos con el acuerdo, la voluntad y los profesionales para atender de inmediato los problemas de los venezolanos. #VenezuelaTenemosPlanPaís pic.twitter.com/qM3E2dxdI9
— Juan Guaidó (@jguaido) January 31, 2019
Venezuelan officials say security forces have taken down a “terrorist” group backed by political opponents plotting to assassinate embattled President Nicolas Maduro.
Interior Minister Nestor Reverol said Thursday that retired National Guard Oswaldo Garcia Palomo was among those detained.
Garcia Palomo has been an outspoken critic of Maduro who for months has openly declared his intentions to amass a military force in exile to remove Maduro from power.
Palomo’s wife Sorbay Padilla has said that she last heard from him Sunday after he entered the country clandestinely from Colombia.
Reverol accuses Colombian intelligence, the CIA and exiled Venezuelan lawmaker Julio Borges of being behind the alleged mercenary group.
He says security forces seized two rifles and 500 armbands bearing the letters “OC,” which he says stands for “Operation Constitution.”
The spokeswoman for the Russian Foreign Ministry says there are no plans underway for evacuation of the country’s diplomats or other citizens from Venezuela, but is declining to comment on why a Russian airliner showed up in the Venezuelan capital’s airport.
The arrival of the Boeing 777 belonging to Russian airline Nordwind on Monday has led to widespread speculation.
Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told reporters Thursday that she could not comment on the airliner, “which was not sent for official goals.”
“I can say that this is not about evacuation of Russian diplomats, or their family members or Russian citizens that are employees of overseas agencies or companies,” she said.
An independent UN human rights monitor says economic sanctions are compounding a “grave crisis” in Venezuela.
Idriss Jazairy, a special rapporteur focusing on the negative impact of sanctions, expressed concern about “reports” that the US sanctions were “aimed at changing the government of Venezuela.” He did not specify the reports.
He added: “The use of sanctions by outside powers to overthrow an elected government is in violation of all norms of international law.”
President Donald Trump has vowed to use the “full weight of United States economic and diplomatic power to press for the restoration of Venezuelan democracy.”
The Trump administration slapped sanctions on Venezuela that could starve the country of billions in oil revenue.
Here's why Venezuela's in a state of deep political unrest: pic.twitter.com/z1etMMeIcD
— AJ+ (@ajplus) January 31, 2019
The European Parliament has recognised Venezuela‘s self-declared interim president Juan Guaido as de facto head of state on Thursday, heightening international pressure on the OPEC member’s socialist President Nicolas Maduro.
EU lawmakers voted 429 in favour to 104 against, with 88 abstentions, at a special session in Brussels to recognise Venezuelan congress head Guaido as interim leader.
In a statement with the non-binding vote, the parliament urged the bloc’s 28 governments to follow suit and consider Guaido “the only legitimate interim president” until there were “new free, transparent and credible presidential elections”.
Guaido said that this recognition by the European Parliament represented a “great step” towards the fight for democracy in Venezuela.
“We have taken a big step in our struggle for democracy!,” Guaido wrote on Twitter.
“We appreciate the decision [taken by] the European Parliament [it] recognise[s] all the effort that we Venezuelans have put forward for the restitution of constitutional order in our country”
¡Hemos dado un gran paso en nuestra lucha por la democracia!
Agradecemos la decisión del Parlamento Europeo de reconocer todo el esfuerzo que hemos llevado adelante los venezolanos por la restitución del orden constitucional en nuestro país.#EuropaConVenezuela #VamosBien pic.twitter.com/tTOO7kKvuk
— Juan Guaidó (@jguaido) January 31, 2019
The White House said President Donald Trump spoke to Venezuela’s self-proclaimed interim president, Juan Guaido, by phone, reiterating support for his “fight to regain democracy”.
White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said Trump and Guaido agreed to maintain regular communication after Venezuelan authorities opened an investigation that could lead to Guaido’s arrest.
Maduro, 56, says Guaido is staging a US-directed coup against him. Maduro is not expected to stand down while he has the backing of senior military officers and has made daily visits to troops.
“Do you want to be a coward?” Maduro yelled in a call and response session with hundreds of soldiers. “No, president,” they shouted back.
Spoke today with Venezuelan Interim President Juan Guaido to congratulate him on his historic assumption of the presidency and reinforced strong United States support for Venezuela’s fight to regain its democracy….
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 30, 2019
The US envoy for Venezuela, Elliott Abrams, warned President Maduro that acting against Juan Guaido would be an “extremely foolish move”.
“The security of interim president Guaido is a concern,” Abrams told reporters.
“The regime has not acted against him in some time and I hope that is because they recognize that he has the support of the vast majority of Venezuelans, and that would be an extremely foolish move for the regime to make.”
Abrams emphasised that unseating Maduro, who still has the backing of the military, could take time.
Mark Green, head of the US Agency for International Development, spoke with Guaido about assisting Venezuelans amid the devastating economic crisis.
US officials will continue to coordinate with the opposition leader’s team about the creation of a specific plan in the coming days to meet the country’s humanitarian needs, according to Guaido’s spokesman.
Discussions have been held about ramping up aid to Venezuelans, including through a “humanitarian corridor” into the country, US envoy Elliott Abrams said. He did not give logistical details as to how such a scheme would operate.
In an opinion piece published by the New York Times, Guaido argued that Venezuela’s opposition has had clandestine meetings with members of the military and security forces.
“The transition will require support from key military contingents. We have had clandestine meetings with members of the armed forces and the security forces,” Guaido said.
“The military’s withdrawal of support from Mr (President Nicolas) Maduro is crucial to enabling a change in government.”
Mexico and Uruguay announced they would convene an international conference for countries and bodies with a “neutral position” to discuss the political crisis in Venezuela.
The two countries have not yet recognised the claim by National Assembly leader Juan Guaido to be acting president in place of leader Nicolas Maduro.
The conference, announced on the website of the Uruguayan presidency, is due to take place in Montevideo on February.
Colombia is barring over 200 people identified as having close ties to Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro from entering the neighbouring Andean nation.
Migration director Christian Kruger said on Wednesday the measure is part of a larger response by the regional bloc known as the Lima Group.
Venezuelan Ronald Ramirez became the first person denied entry Wednesday after landing in the Colombian city of Barranquilla on a charter plane.
The Trump administration’s special envoy for Venezuela says there are deep splits in the country’s military that should make embattled President Nicolas Maduro and his supporters very nervous.
Elliott Abrams says the vast majority of Venezuelan soldiers are unhappy with Maduro and the state of the country. Abrams says Maduro may have the backing of the top brass but the rank-and-file are restive.
Abrams told reporters at the State Department on Wednesday that the administration would continue to ramp up pressure to push Maduro to step down and would expand its support for opposition leader Juan Guaido.
France said that Venezuelan leader Nicolas Maduro appeared not to be heeding calls for new presidential elections and that European foreign ministers would discuss next steps in Bucharest on Thursday.
France, along with other European Union members, said on Saturday they would recognise opposition leader Juan Guaido as the country’s rightful leader if Maduro failed to call a new vote within eight days.
“We asked … for Maduro to announce presidential elections which would be monitored by the international community. It seems that he’s against this, so, if that’s the case, we would like Guaido to take up this initiative.”
The US representative for Venezuela’s self-proclaimed interim president Juan Guaido will meet with US officials on Wednesday to plan a takeover of assets from socialist Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s government.
Carlos Vecchio told reporters at a news conference that he will meet with White House officials o US Treasury Department possibly on Thursday about how to take control of Venezuelan assets in a progressive and orderly fashion, following a legal procedure.
Two French reporters have been arrested covering the political turmoil in Venezuela and the French embassy is working for their release, a diplomatic source said on Wednesday.
“We confirm the arrest of two of our compatriots in Venezuela,” the French source told Reuters.
“Our Embassy has requested consular protection in accordance with the Vienna Convention and in particular the right of access. ”
Rolando Rodriguez, a Venezuelan producer, was with the team as well.
Translation: The [French] reporters and Venezuelan Rolando Rodriguez attended the vigil scheduled outside the Presidential Palace on Tuesday, and since then contact with them has been lost, the National Union for Press workers in Venezuela wrote.
Los reporteros extranjeros y el venezolano Rolando Rodríguez asistieron a la vigilia pautada en las afueras del Palacio Presidencial este martes y desde entonces se perdió contacto con ellos.
— SNTP (@sntpvenezuela) January 30, 2019
White House National Security Adviser John Bolton underlined US pressure on Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro on Wednesday, telling bankers, brokers and traders not to deal in the country’s commodities that he said were “stolen” from the Venezuelan people.
“My advice to bankers, brokers, traders, facilitators, and other businesses: don’t deal in gold, oil, or other Venezuelan commodities being stolen from the Venezuelan people by the Maduro mafia. We stand ready to continue to take action,” he wrote in a Twitter post.
My advice to bankers, brokers, traders, facilitators, and other businesses: don’t deal in gold, oil, or other Venezuelan commodities being stolen from the Venezuelan people by the Maduro mafia. We stand ready to continue to take action.
— John Bolton (@AmbJohnBolton) January 30, 2019
Venezuelans are exiting their homes and workplaces in a walkout organised by the opposition to demand that President Nicolas Maduro leave power.
People began gathering on streets in the capital city of Caracas around noon, waving flags and chanting phrases like, “Free elections!”
The demonstration comes one week after opposition leader Juan Guaido declared himself president before thousands of supporters, contending that he is the nation’s rightful leader because Maduro’s reelection was a sham.
US President Donald Trump and Juan Guaido agreed during a Wednesday phone call to maintain regular contact amid planned protests in coming days, according to a White House spokeswoman.
Trump spoke with Guiado “to reinforce President Trump’s strong support for Venezuela’s fight to regain its democracy,” White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said in a statement.
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro is pressing his case directly to the American people, asking for their help in preventing a “Vietnam in Latin America.”
In a 45-second video shot late Tuesday from the presidential palace and addressed to “the American people”, Maduro said that the Trump administration is behind an attempt to overthrow him in a coup.
But he said he is confident that he’s on the “right side of history” and pleaded with regular Americans to keep US troops out of the country.
Translation: American people, I ask for your support to reject the interference of Donald Trump’s government [in Venezuela], [he] aims to make my homeland a Vietnam in Latin America. Do not let him!
— Nicolás Maduro (@NicolasMaduro) January 30, 2019
Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro has attended a military event ahead of planned anti-government protests.
In scenes broadcast on state TV, Maduro could be seen walking around the Fort Tiuna military base in Caracas early Wednesday, with top commanders and dozens of troops.
“Do you love your homeland? Will you defend the constitution? Will you defend your commander in
chief?” Maduro asked the troops, who responded with loud shouts of “Yes, commander in chief!”
President Donald Trump on Wednesday warned US citizens against travelling to Venezuela amid the political crisis there over control of the government, as the US and other nations have recognised Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s rival Juan Guaido.
Maduro willing to negotiate with opposition in Venezuela following U.S. sanctions and the cutting off of oil revenues. Guaido is being targeted by Venezuelan Supreme Court. Massive protest expected today. Americans should not travel to Venezuela until further notice.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 30, 2019
President Maduro expressed readiness to hold negotiations with the American-backed opposition in the presence of international mediators while accusing the US of ordering his assassination.
The leader, who previously rejected calls for talks, told Russia’s state-owned RIA Novosti news agency on Wednesday he changed his stance “for the sake of Venezuela’s peace and its future”.
Maduro said the talks could be held with the mediation of other countries and he mentioned Mexico, Uruguay, Bolivia, the Vatican and Russia as potential third parties.
He accused US President Donald Trump of organising his killing, saying he was aware of Trump’s “orders” for the Colombian government and local mafia to carry it out. He offered no evidence to support the allegation.
“If something happens to me one day then Donald Trump and Colombian President Ivan Duque will be responsible for everything that is happening to me,” he said.
US President Trump’s national security advisor warned of “serious consequences” if any harm comes to Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido.
Bolton’s warning followed a request by the Maduro government’s attorney general for the Supreme Court to bar Guaido from leaving the country and to freeze his assets.
We denounce the illegitimate former Venezuelan Attorney General's threats against President Juan Guaido. Let me reiterate – there will be serious consequences for those who attempt to subvert democracy and harm Guaido.
— John Bolton (@AmbJohnBolton) January 29, 2019
Vice President Mike Pence will meet Tuesday afternoon with Carlos Vecchio, a new Venezuelan envoy in Washington appointed by opposition leader Juan Guaido.
The meeting will take place one day after the Trump administration sanctioned Venezuela’s state-owned oil company, ratcheting up pressure on President Nicolas Maduro to cede power to the US-backed opposition in the oil-rich South American nation.
Venezuela’s Attorney General Tarek Saab on Tuesday said he asked the Supreme Court to open a preliminary investigation against self-proclaimed President Juan Guaido and to freeze the opposition leader’s accounts.
As a lawmaker, who also heads the National Assembly, Guaido has immunity from criminal investigation which can only be removed by a high court.
The US certified the authority of Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido to control certain assets held by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York or any other US-insured banks, the State Department said on Tuesday.
The certification, given on Friday, applies to certain property held in accounts belonging to the Venezuelan government or its central bank.
“This certification will help Venezuela’s legitimate government safeguard those assets for the benefit of the Venezuelan people,” State Department spokesman Robert Palladino said in a statement.
White House national security adviser John Bolton raised questions about the US’s intentions in Venezuela after he appeared at a briefing on Monday, with a notepad containing the words “5,000 troops to Colombia,” which neighbours Venezuela.
It was not immediately clear what Bolton’s note meant and whether President Donald Trump’s administration was seriously considering sending US troops to Colombia.
It was also not clear if disclosure of the note was intentional.
Representatives for the National Security Council and the Pentagon could not be immediately reached for comment.
Venezuela‘s opposition movement can achieve a peaceful transition from President Nicolas Maduro and eventually hold free elections, its leader Juan Guaido told CNN in an interview that aired on Tuesday.
“We are sure we can achieve a peaceful transition – a transition and eventually free elections,” Guaido said in the Spanish-language interview, which was translated into English.
Guaido, who has led the movement against Maduro with support from the US and other Western nations, spoke after Washington on Monday imposed sanctions on state-owned oil firm PDVSA as it pressured Maduro’s government.
The UN human rights office says security forces in Venezuela detained nearly 700 people in one day last week amid anti-government protests – the highest such tally in a single day in the country in at least 20 years.
Rights office spokesman Rupert Colville said on Tuesday that 696 people were detained on January 23 alone. Overall, some 850 were detained between Monday and Saturday, including 77 children.
Colville said that “more than 40 people” are now believed to have been in killed “in different manners” amid the recent protests, including 11 people reportedly killed by “unidentified individuals” linked to incidents of looting.
China’s foreign ministry has said it continues to recognise Nicolas Maduro as Venezuela’s president and criticised planned US sanctions on Venezuela’s state-owned petroleum company.
“Experience has proven that external interference or sanctions will only complicate the situation and will not help solve practical problems,” said foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang at a regular media briefing Tuesday.
Responding to Washington’s move to impose sanctions on Venezuelan state-owned oil firm PDVSA, Maduro said the measures were “criminal” and vowed to take action.
“I have given specific instructions to the head of PDVSA to launch political and legal action, in US and international courts, to defend the property and assets of Citgo,” Maduro said in televised remarks.
In a direct message to President Donald Trump spoken in broken English, Maduro said forcefully: “Hands off Venezuela!” as he accused Washington of robbing Venezuelans of oil riches that rightfully belong to them.
The Trump administration on Monday imposed sanctions on PDVSA, the toughest US financial measure so far against Maduro.
“We have continued to expose the corruption of (Venezuelan President Nicolas) Maduro and his cronies and today’s action ensures they can no longer loot the assets of the Venezuelan people,” US national security adviser John Bolton told reporters at a White House briefing.
PDVSA is OPEC nation Venezuela’s largest source of revenue and owns US refining arm Citgo Petroleum, Venezuela’s most important foreign asset.
Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido has ordered Congress to begin the process of naming new boards of directors to state oil company PDVSA and US refining subsidiary Citgo.
His advisers are rushing to take control of Citgo, the country’s main foreign asset, before a potential bond default that could leave half the company in creditors’ hands, sources close to the talks told Reuters earlier on Monday.
Guaido also announced he was taking control of the country’s foreign assets to prevent leader Nicolas Maduro from commandeering them in an eventual exit from power.
In a statement published on social media, Guaido said he was “beginning to take progressive and orderly control of our republic’s assets abroad to prevent, during his exit… that the usurper and his band try to empty the coffers.”
Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido has asked British authorities to stop President Nicolas Maduro gaining access to gold reserves held in the Bank of England, according to letters released by his party on Sunday.
In letters to British Prime Minister Theresa May and Bank of England Governor Mark Carney, Guaido said Maduro government officials were seeking to sell the gold and move the proceeds to Venezuela’s central bank.
“I am writing to ask you to stop this illegitimate transaction,” wrote Guaido. “If the money is transferred … it will be used by the illegitimate and kleptocratic regime of Nicolas Maduro to repress and brutalize the Venezuelan people.”
The Bank of England and May’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment. In the past, the bank has declined to comment on questions about Venezuela’s gold, citing client privacy considerations.
Canada will host an “urgent meeting” of the Lima Group on the Venezuela crisis on February 4 in Ottawa, Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland announced on Monday.
The bloc of 14 nation, Latin American powers and Canada, will “discuss the steps we can take to support (opposition leader) Juan Guaido and the people of Venezuela,” she said.
The top US envoy in Caracas has been meeting with officials of President Nicolas Maduro‘s government to try to ease heightened tensions, despite the two countries having cut ties, Venezuela’s foreign minister said Monday.
Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza appeared on state TV holding up photos of US Charge d’Affaires James Story and a top Venezuelan government official as proof.
The two countries broke relations last week after President Donald Trump recognised opposition lawmaker Juan Guaido as Venezuela’s legitimate leader.
Venezuela devalued its currency by almost 35 percent on Monday to bring it into line with the exchange rate of the dollar on the black market.
The exchange rate is now fixed at 3,200 bolivars to the dollar, almost matching the 3,118.62 offered on the dolartoday.com site that acts as the reference for the black market.
Exchanges will now be provided by a technological platform operated by a private firm called Interbanex, which said it would operate a “supply and demand” exchange.
A week of protests against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has left 35 people dead and 850 detained, non-governmental organisations said on Monday.
“We have the corroborated figure, with first name, surname, place and presumed guilty parties, of 35 people murdered in the context of the protests” since Monday last week, said Rafael Uzcategui, director of the Venezuelan Programme for Education-Action in Human Rights.
Another NGO, Foro Penal, said 850 people, among them 77 minors, have been arrested.
The crisis in OPEC member Venezuela could impact the oil market balance, Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih said on Monday.
“Of course, developments in Venezuela may have an impact on the (oil) markets … We are watching developments there and there could be an impact on the oil market balance,” al-Falih said.
Pope Francis has said he is “terrified of a bloodbath” in Venezuela but does not want to pick sides in the political standoff because it is not his role as a pastor.
If I were to enter and say “Do this” to those countries, or to other countries, I would put myself in a role that I do not know. It would be a pastoral imprudence on my part and would do damage.”
Francis called for a “just and peaceful” solution to the crisis in Venezuela that respects human rights and avoids suffering.
Several Russian and international media outlets have reported about Russian mercenaries sent to Venezuela to help Maduro who is under international pressure to hold elections.
Asked on television about whether there were “400 of our fighters protecting Maduro” in Venezuela, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov responded: “No of course not.”
Pope Francis called for a just and peaceful solution that respects human rights, in his first remarks on the Venezuela crisis.
“Faced with the grave situation it is going through, I ask the Lord that a just and peaceful solution is sought and achieved in order to overcome the crisis, respecting human rights [and] the good of all the people of the country,” he said.
Israel threw its support behind opposition leader Guaido as the country’s leader.
“Israel joins the United States, Canada, most of the countries of Latin America and countries in Europe in recognising the new leadership in Venezuela,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement
Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza rejected an eight-day deadline set by some European nations to plan new elections, saying no power “can dictate to our nation its destiny”.
“Venezuela will not allow anyone to impose on us any decision or order,” Arreaza told the United Nations Security Council. “We will continue following the path of our democracy.”
Russia accused the US of using the UNSC as part of an “unethical ploy” to effect regime change in Venezuela.
Moscow’s Ambassador to the UN Vassily Nebenzia harked back to previous US interventions in Latin American countries, such as Nicaragua, and said Washington still considers Latin America its “backyard”.
Russia also told the council that the US should give a clear answer on whether it is willing to use military force in Venezuela, although the US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, did not discuss the country’s next steps.
“I’m not going to speculate or hypothesise what the US will do next,” Pompeo told reporters on the sidelines of the meeting.
Speaking at the UNSC meeting, Pompeo urged all nations to back congressional leader Guaido as Venezuela’s interim president, so that Venezuelans can free themselves from what he calls President Maduro’s “illegitimate mafia state”.
“Either you stand with the forces of freedom, or you’re in league with Maduro and his mayhem,” Pompeo said, urging nations to pick a side.
Pompeo added that “the humanitarian situation demands action now”.
Pompeo also brushed off Maduro’s call for US diplomats to leave, saying he expects the envoys to continue to enjoy protections and safety.
“Do not test the United States in our resolve to protect our own people,” Pompeo said.
The European Union says it could recognise Guaido as Venezuela’s leader if the government doesn’t announce new elections in the coming days.
EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said in a statement on Saturday that the European bloc would intensify contacts with international partners “in the coming hours” on Venezuela’s crisis.
The EU urgently called for new elections, saying Venezuela’s presidential vote last year was not democratic.
“In the absence of an announcement on the organisation of fresh elections with the necessary guarantees over the next days, the EU will take further actions, including on the issue of recognition of the country’s leadership,” Mogherini said.
France, Germany, Spain and the United Kingdom have given Maduro eight days to call elections, failing which they will recognise opposition leader Guaido as interim president, joining other nations, including the US in endorsing him.
“If within eight days there are no fair, free and transparent elections called in Venezuela, Spain will recognise Juan Guaido as Venezuelan president,” Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said in an official, televised announcement.
Former US diplomat Elliott Abrams will lead US efforts on Venezuela, Secretary of State Pompeo said on Friday.
“Elliott will be a true asset to our mission to help the Venezuelan people fully restore democracy and prosperity to their country,” Pompeo said, announcing Abrams’ appointment.
He said Abrams would accompany him to the UN on Saturday for a UNSC meeting on Venezuela.
Venezuela’s most important foreign asset, its $10bn US refining arm Citgo Petroleum, will arm itself with a legal strategy to block efforts to remove its board and divert its revenues to an opposition government, sources close to the talks told the Reuters news agency.
Guaido, the head of the opposition-controlled National Assembly, is considering naming a new team to lead Citgo.
But President Maduro said in Caracas on Friday that his government would seek to defend the refiner.
“Citgo is the property of the Venezuelan state,” Maduro said, adding that the OPEC member plans to continue selling petroleum to the US, its first destination for crude exports and state-run oil and gas company PDVSA’s largest source of cash.
A senior Russian diplomat said Moscow is ready to mediate between Venezuela’s government and the opposition.
Alexander Shchetinin, head of the Foreign Ministry’s Latin America department, told the state RIA Novosti news agency on Friday that “if our efforts are called for, we are ready to make the effort.”
Moscow had already denounced the US decision to recognise Guaido as Venezuela’s legitimate president, calling it an attempted coup.
President Maduro said he was willing to engage in talks with the opposition in order to avoid violence in a conflict over who was the legitimate leader of the country.
“I’m committed to a national dialogue. Today, tomorrow and always, I’m committed and ready to go wherever I have to. Personally, if I have to meet with this young man… I’ll go,” the leftist leader told a news conference.
Guaido swiftly rejected the offer.
“When they don’t get the results they want through repression, they offer us fake dialogue instead,” he told a separate news conference at a Caracas square.
“I want that to be clear to the world and to this regime – nobody here is signing up for a false dialogue.”
In previous rounds of talks last year, the government and the opposition failed to agree on conditions for holding presidential elections. Maduro eventually won the disputed contest.
President Maduro said he welcomes a debate about Venezuela in the Security Council.
Russia, a permanent member of the council and Maduro’s ally, said it will insist on compliance with international law if the UNSC holds a meeting on Venezuela.
President Maduro addressed a press conference on Friday. Self-proclaimed interim president, Guaido, also spoke on the day.
Al Jazeera’s Lucia Newman, reporting from Cucuta, Colombia, said Maduro called it a coup attempt, being orchestrated and led by the US.
“He is most likely going to reiterate that he is willing to hold dialogue and negotiations for a constitutional peaceful way out of this crisis,” Newman said.
Maduro also said he hoped the US fully complies with his order earlier in the week for its diplomats to leave Venezuela, which came after he announced plans to break relations.
On the other hand, opposition leader Guaido called for a “major demonstration next week” to demand Maduro’s resignation in his first public appearance since declaring himself “acting president” two days ago.
“Juan Guaido … looks very upbeat, he is talking about the extraordinary international support he has received, but he addressed mainly the armed forces ..,” Newman said.
“Guaido is appealing to the army to side with the ordinary Venezuelan people.”
Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido is considering requesting funds from international institutions, including the International Monetary Fund (IMF), to finance his interim government, sources told Reuters.
Guaido’s team is planning to name a new board for state-run oil firm PDVSA’s US unit, Citgo Petroleum, and a new representative to the Inter-American Development Bank, two sources familiar with the discussions said.
The IMF is avoiding saying whether it recognises opposition leader Guaido as interim president of Venezuela.
The director of the Western Hemisphere Department, Alejandro Werner, said the IMF will follow the position of its member states.
The IMF refused to say whether it has had any contact with either Guaido’s team or with officials working for Maduro’s government since Guaido pledged to serve as Venezuela’s interim president on January 23.
On the other hand, the Inter-American Development Bank has recognised Guaido.
Vassily Nebenzia, Russia’s ambassador to the UN, said on Friday that Moscow would oppose a US push for the Security Council to recognise Venezuela’s opposition leader Guaido as the country’s interim president.
US Secretary of State Pompeo will brief the UN Security Council on Venezuela and urge member countries to recognise opposition leader Guaido as the country’s interim president, the State Department said on Friday.
The meeting of the 15-member council was requested by the US after Washington and a string of countries in the region said they recognised Guaido as the head of the state and urged President Maduro to step down.
The UN request faces opposition from Russia.
Turkey is against coup attempts anywhere in the world, said President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday, voicing solidarity with Maduro.
“We never side with the coup-plotters and we never will. We stand against them wherever they are across the world,” Erdogan told a rally in eastern Erzurum province.
“Now, there is a coup attempt in Venezuela, which we oppose once again. No matter where it happens, we will never side with the coup-plotters. If we believe in and support democracy, then respecting ballot boxes is what we need.”
Mexico is willing to mediate between the Venezuelan government and the opposition to seek a solution to the country’s political crisis, President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said.
Mexico would undertake the task on condition that both sides ask for it, Obrador said in a press conference.
“According to international law, and according to the Venezuelan constitution …. the people who are legitimately able to name a president in Venezuela are the citizens in Venezuela … ,” Peter Dobson, a Venezuelan political analyst, told Al Jazeera.
“I think [that if] we call this anything other than a coup d’etat or an attempted coup d’etat, we will be mistaken.
“[The White House is attempting to overthrow President Maduro for] the same reason there were some intents on ousting president Chavez in 2002 or Maduro in 2014.
“One simple word oil, the control of the oil resources in Venezuela, as well as the diamonds, the gold, the water, the gas and a whole range of natural resources, is massively important for the United States, and [their] geostrategic interests across the world,” he added.
Spanish Foreign Minister Josep Borrell says that Spain is pushing for the EU to back Venezuelan opposition leader Guaido if President Maduro does not call elections by a deadline yet to be set.
The deadline was being discussed on Friday by officials of the 28 countries in Brussels and Borrell said it should be “short and minimal”, without further specifying.
“We are trying to look for a solution that avoids confrontation and more deaths,” Borrell told reporters during a weekly government briefing.
A US official said that some American diplomats and their families have headed to the Venezuelan capital’s airport amid the diplomatic standoff with President Maduro.
A letter written by a US embassy security officer requesting a Venezuelan police escort for 10 vehicles was leaked earlier on Friday on social media.
Maduro had on Wednesday given the US diplomats 72 hours to leave the country.
Germany said it favours recognising Venezuela’s opposition leader as the country’s interim president unless there are free and fair elections soon.
Government spokesman Steffen Seibert said on Friday that “Venezuela needs a chance to return to democracy” and Germany does not consider President Maduro to be legitimate.
Seibert said Germany is eager for the EU to reach a common line on Venezuela at a meeting of diplomats in Brussels on Friday.
The UN human rights chief called for independent investigations into violence linked to protests in Venezuela, allegedly involving excessive use of force by security or pro-government forces that reportedly left at least 20 people dead.
Michelle Bachelet’s office in Geneva said that she “urged all sides to conduct immediate talks to defuse the increasingly incendiary atmosphere”.
She said an independent, impartial probe was needed for any violence leading to death or injury, whether caused by excessive force by security forces or armed groups – pro-government or not.
The office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said on Friday “at least 20 people are reported by credible local sources to have died after allegedly being shot by security forces or members of pro-government armed groups during demonstrations Tuesday and Wednesday”.
#Venezuela: "I am extremely concerned that the situation may rapidly spiral out of control with catastrophic consequences" – UN Human Rights Chief @mbachelet condemns killings, urges restraint and calls for dialogue to halt spiralling crisis.
— UN Human Rights (@UNHumanRights) January 25, 2019
India called for dialogue among stakeholders in Venezuela amid the ongoing political crisis in the oil-rich South American nation.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Raveesh Kumar told news website Wire on Friday: “..it is for the people of Venezuela to find a political solution to resolve their differences through constructive dialogue and discussion without resorting to violence.”
“We believe democracy, peace and security in Venezuela are of paramount importance for the progress and prosperity of the people of Venezuela,” Kumar said, adding that the two countries enjoyed “close and cordial relations”.
In a post on Twitter, Maduro hailed Moscow, Beijing and Ankara for their support amid the crisis.
“I thank Russia, China, Turkey and other governments and people of the world for their strong support of the legitimately established government of Venezuela,” he said in a Twitter post.
“Venezuela is not alone!” he added.
Agradezco a Rusia, China, Turquía, y a todos los gobiernos y pueblos del mundo, por sus manifestaciones firmes y contundentes en respaldo del Gobierno legítimamente constituido que presido. Gracias por el apoyo decidido. ¡Venezuela no está sola! pic.twitter.com/zlDqDNRu7V
— Nicolás Maduro (@NicolasMaduro) January 24, 2019
In his first comments since declaring himself interim president, Guaido said he would consider granting amnesty to Maduro and his allies if they helped Venezuela return to democracy.
The remarks are part of a soon-to-be-aired interview the opposition leader gave to Univision that was published on its website.
Guaido said that amnesty was on the table for anybody willing to help return Venezuela to constitutional order.
The US State Department ordered non-emergency government employees to leave Venezuela and said the US citizens should “strongly consider” leaving the country, the US Embassy in Caracas said.
President Maduro ordered all Venezuelan diplomats home from the US and is closing its embassy.
Maduro said that if US officials had any sense they would pull out their own diplomats from Caracas rather than defying his order to leave.
The two countries have not exchanged ambassadors in nearly a decade, but they have maintained diplomatic staff.
Twenty-six people have been killed since the latest wave of protests against Nicolas Maduro broke out four days ago, the Caracas-based Observatory of Social Conflict said on Thursday.
The previous toll from the protests – which began when a group of soldiers took over a command post in the north of the capital in defiance of the socialist regime – had stood at 16.
In some places, armed forces have fired tear gas and rubber bullets to subdue protesters, some of whom threw stones.
The Venezuelan Embassy in Turkey on Thursday urged solitary from the people of Turkey.
“We expect solidarity from the Turkish people,” the embassy said in a statement, Anadolu Agency reported.
“We strongly condemn the fascist attacks attempting to undermine the legitimacy of President Nicolas Maduro’s government,” the statement read.
“I had a phone call with President of Russia Vladimir Putin, with whom I spoke for about 20 minutes, President Putin always expressing his solidarity with Venezuela,” President Maduro said.
“The US is leading a major provocation against Venezuela,” he explained.
“I believe that in the world there is no doubt that it is Donald Trump himself who wishes to impose a defacto… government.. in Venezuela, against the people and against democracy.”
“Donald Trump with his insanity of thinking that he is the policeman of the world, believing that he is the one in charge of Latin American and the Caribbean, it’s a major provocation.”
“[But] I tell you, President Putin, just as I told people yesterday… everyone to work, everything will work, and the country continues to go forward, and the government continues to govern,” he added.
Venezuela’s Supreme Court members applauded and pledged their unwavering support for President Maduro.
The US has called for a meeting of the UN Security Council to discuss the crisis in Venezuela, the US mission to the United Nations said.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is expected to attend the open meeting requested for Saturday, diplomats said.
The US is seeking to ensure that Venezuelan oil revenue goes to opposition leader Juan Guaido, and to cut off money from President Nicolas Maduro, national security advisor John Bolton said on Thursday.
The announcement signals that Washington is willing to go beyond traditional diplomatic measures and will seek to starve Maduro’s government of revenue as his administration is already struggling with unpaid bills and creditors demanding payment.
“What we’re focusing on today is disconnecting the illegitimate Maduro regime from the sources of his revenues,” Bolton told reporters at the White House.
But he said the process was “very complicated” and that officials were still studying how this would function.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called on members of the Organization of American States (OAS) to recognise National Assembly President Juan Guaido as the interim president of Venezuela.
At a meeting in Washington, Pompeo said “the time for debate is done. The regime of former President Nicolas Maduro is illegitimate.”
Pompeo also pledged $20m in humanitarian assistance to Venezuela and called on Venezuelan security forces to protect Guaido’s physical safety.
.@SecPompeo at @OAS_official: Today I am announcing U.S. is ready to provide more than $20 million in humanitarian aid to the people of #Venezuela. The funds are to help them cope w/severe food & medicine shortages & other dire impacts of their country’s political & econ. crisis. pic.twitter.com/gXlzU7EkGs
— Department of State (@StateDept) January 24, 2019
The Vatican says Pope Francis is closely following developments in Venezuela and supports “all efforts that help save the population from further suffering”.
A statement from Vatican spokesman Alessandro Gisotti on Thursday did not specify whether the Holy See recognised opposition leader Juan Guaido’s claim to the interim presidency.
Francis is nearby on a visit to Panama for World Youth Day.
Venezuelan Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino said on Thursday that Nicolas Maduro was the country’s “legitimate president” and that the opposition was carrying out a coup after Juan Guaido, the leader of Congress, declared himself president.
Padrino said the US and other governments were carrying out an economic war against Venezuela, an OPEC nation with the world’s largest crude reserves.
Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido, who declared himself president on Wednesday, is the right person to take the country forward, Britain’s Foreign Minister Jeremy Hunt said on Thursday.
“The United Kingdom believes Juan Guaido is the right person to take Venezuela forward. We are supporting the US, Canada, Brazil and Argentina to make that happen,” he told the media during a visit to Washington.
Hunt added that Britain did not regard Nicolas Maduro as Venezuela’s legitimate leader following elections on May 20 last year that Britain said had been “deeply flawed”.
US Secretary of State Pompeo has asked to brief the UN Security Council on Venezuela on Saturday, South Africa’s United Nations Ambassador Jerry Matjila told reporters on Thursday.
It is impossible for Turkey to approve of the developments in Venezuela, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said on Thursday, adding that he believed the people of Venezuela would continue to support President Nicolas Maduro
Speaking at a joint news conference with his Maltese counterpart in Ankara, Erdogan said he found US President Donald Trump’s comments on Venezuela shocking and added that democracies needed to respect election results.
A Venezuelan monitoring group says at least a dozen people have been killed by gunfire in a wave of anti-government unrest rocking Venezuela.
Coordinator Marco Ponce with the non-profit Venezuelan Observatory of Social Conflict gave the death toll and names of those reported dead to the Associated Press on Thursday.
Seven deaths had been reported earlier.
For a third consecutive night, there were reports of looting in poor neighbourhoods in Caracas and clashes between protesters and state security forces
Military commanders across Venezuela are taking to the airwaves to vow loyalty to embattled President Nicolas Maduro.
Major General Victor Palacio said Thursday he categorically rejected any acts threatening stability in Venezuela.
Palacio is one of several generals who have been appearing on state TV, standing before dozens of soldiers in a show of military support.
Major General Manuel Gregorio Bernal also backed Maduro, saying the president represents an independent country in the face of imperialist aggression.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is calling for dialogue in Venezuela, saying violence or escalation should be avoided in Venezuela.
“It is absolutely essential to have dialogue to avoid violence and avoid escalation,” Guterres said without elaborating.
Three Venezuelan lawyers are asking the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to grant precautionary measures to protect Guaido and his family.
The document, filed only hours after Guaido declared himself an interim president of the country, states that the request does not equal to a recognition of the legitimacy of the Maduro administration.
Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard on Thursday urged Maduro and Guaido to hold talks to avoid escalating violence in Venezuela.
“As a country that believes in democracy … wherever in the world there is a coup attempt, we stand against them all without distinction. Everyone has to respect the result of the ballot boxes,” Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said.
China also denounced the foreign intervention into Venezuela’s domestic politics.
“China always maintains the principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of other countries, opposing external intervention in Venezuelan domestic affairs,” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said.
Russia warned the US not to intervene militarily in Venezuela, saying its support for Guaido was a “path to lawlessness and bloodshed”.
On Thursday attention will shift to Washington where diplomats at the Organization of American States will hold an emergency meeting on the Venezuelan situation.
The debate promises to be charged, and the National Assembly’s newly picked diplomatic envoy will be lobbying to take Venezuela’s seat from Maduro’s ambassador.
Meanwhile, many Venezuelans will be looking for Guaido to re-emerge and provide guidance on the opposition’s next steps.
The armed forces’ top command is also expected to issue a statement, although nobody expects the generals’ loyalties to Maduro to have shifted.
“While it’s true that Guaido has been recognised internationally, the real power of the state is still in the hands of Nicolas Maduro,” said Ronal Rodriguez, a political science professor who focuses on Venezuela at Rosario University in Bogota.
Nicolas Maduro has accused the US of orchestrating a coup d’etat while seeking to run Venezuela from Washington, DC.
“Don’t trust the gringos,” he thundered to a crowd of red-shirted supporters gathered at the presidential palace. “They don’t have friends or loyalties. They only have interests … and the ambition to take Venezuela’s oil, gas and gold.”
Venezuelan Defence Minister Vladimir Padrino said the armed forces did not recognise a self-proclaimed president “imposed by shadowy interests … outside the law”.
Wednesday, January 23
Three Venezuelan lawyers ask the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to grant precautionary measures to protect Guaido, his wife and his daughter.
The request, shared with The Associated Press news agency by the lawyer Ignacio Alvarez, argues the measure is needed to safeguard the life, personal integrity and personal freedom of Guaido and his immediate family.
The document says the request does not equal to a recognition of the legitimacy of the Maduro government.
The human rights body of the Organization of American States has the authority to grant precautionary measures as a way to request states protection for persons at urgent and grave risk of suffering irreparable harm.
Mexico and Uruguay call on all internal and external parties involved in Venezuela’s crisis to defuse tensions and prevent an escalation of violence.
Uruguay’s foreign ministry releases a statement saying the two countries are proposing a “new process of inclusive and credible negotiations with full respect for the rule of law and human rights” to resolve the dispute peacefully.
The US State Department says Maduro has no authority to cut diplomatic relations with Washington.
“The United States does not recognise the Maduro regime as the government of Venezuela,” it says in a statement.
“Accordingly the United States does not consider former president Nicolas Maduro to have the legal authority to break diplomatic relations with the United States or to declare our diplomats persona non grata.”
Following Washington’s move, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan expresses solidarity with Maduro.
“Maduro brother, stand tall, Turkey stands with you, Erdogan tells President Nicolas Maduro by telephone,” Turkish presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin writes on Twitter.
Kalin also shares the #WeAreMADURO hashtag to show solidarity.
Venezuelan Defence Minister Vladimir Padrino says via Twitter on Wednesday that the country’s armed forces disavow any president who is self-proclaimed or imposed by “dark interests”.
Padrino vows that the armed forces will defend Venezuela’s constitution and national sovereignty.
Maduro urges the military to maintain unity and discipline.
“We will triumph over this as well, we will come out victorious,” Maduro tells supporters outside the Miraflores presidential palace in Caracas.
Just hours after the US backed the opposition leader, Maduro declares he is breaking relations with the US and gives its diplomatic personnel 72 hours to leave Venezuela.
Contacts have already been severely limited in recent years.
Bolivia’s leftist President Evo Morales affirms his long-standing alliance with Maduro, offering to stand by Venezuela’s side against what he often calls US meddling in South America’s affairs.
“Our solidarity with the Venezuelan people and our brother Nicolas Maduro, in these decisive hours in which the claws of imperialism seek again to mortally wound the democracy and self-determination of the peoples of South America,” Morales says in a Twitter post
Mexico also says it recognises “the authorities elected in accordance with the Venezuelan constitution”, seen as a lukewarm nod to Maduro, while Cuba expresses its “firm support” for the Venezuelan president after what it called a “coup attempt”.
Guaido gains recognition from a slew of right-wing or right-leaning Latin American governments, including Venezuela’s neighbours Brazil and Colombia. Guatemala and Costa Rica also recognise the opposition leader.
Canada says it intends to back Guaido.
Guaido’s declaration takes Venezuela into uncharted territory, with the possibility of the opposition now running a parallel government recognised abroad as legitimate but without control over state functions.
Shortly after Guaido swears himself in, Trump officially recognises him as president.
“In its role as the only legitimate branch of government duly elected by the Venezuelan people, the National Assembly invoked the country’s constitution to declare Nicolas Maduro illegitimate, and the office of the presidency therefore vacant,” Trump says.
At a rally that brought hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans into the east of the capital, Caracas, Guaido says Maduro usurped power.
Guaido, 35, promises to create a transitional government that would help the country escape its hyperinflationary economic collapse.
“I swear to assume all the powers of the presidency to secure an end to the usurpation,” Guaido tells the crowd.
Pro-opposition and pro-government supporters stage rallies across the country.
Thousands of anti-government protesters participate in marches to demand Maduro’s resignation and security forces fire tear gas at opposition demonstrators blocking a highway.
Meanwhile, government supporters hold counterrallies for Maduro.
US Vice President Mike Pence backs the anti-government protests in a video posted on Twitter.
“On behalf of President Donald Trump and all the American people, let me express the unwavering support of the United States as you, the people of Venezuela, raise your voices in a call for freedom,” Pence says in the taped message.
“Nicolas Maduro is a dictator with no legitimate claim to power. He has never won the presidency in a free and fair election, and has maintained his grip on power by imprisoning anyone who dares to oppose him.”
Venezuelan Vice President Delcy Rodriguez accuses Pence of “openly calling for a coup”.
Protesters burn rubbish and clash with troops in dozens of Caracas neighbourhoods, Reuters news agency reports.
The Venezuelan Observatory of Social Conflict, a body that monitors violence, says that a 16-year-old is killed overnight in the capital.
More protests are called for Wednesday.