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Venezuela's Guaido calls for new protests, Pope fears 'bloodbath'

29 January 2019

Francisco Gonzalez, a pro-government analyst, said that while Maduro's weakness and Venezuela's economic and social problems are self-evident, many in the country resent the heavy-handed role the Trump administration is playing in the fast-unfolding crisis.

The United States says recognition of opposition leader Juan Guaido as Venezuela's interim president is the only way to restore democracy in that country.

Venezuela's self-declared interim leader Juan Guaido speaks to supporters during a gathering to propose amnesty laws for police and military, at a public plaza in Las Mercedes neighborhood of Caracas, Venezuela, Saturday, Jan. 26, 2019.

Opposition followers - some shouting "Soldier friend, you're the only one missing" - handed out leaflets describing the amnesty plans at military and police posts.

Maduro has accused Guaido of taking part in a coup ordered by Trump's hard-line policy advisers, who include Cold War veterans John Bolton and Elliott Abrams.

During an appearance on state TV on Sunday, Maduro addressed soldiers and asked if they were plotting with the "imperialist" United States. Their commander responded that they were defending the Bolivarian revolution and support Maduro.

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The armed forces have so far remained loyal to Maduro, firing tear gas and bullets on protesters and killing more than two dozen since Wednesday.

Maduro said the U.S. President Donald Trump is not a leader who can deal with the problems and underlined that Trump "belittles" Venezuela, Latin America and the world.

Maduro has received backing from China, Russia, Syria and Turkey, as well as longtime allies Cuba and Bolivia.

Guaido reportedly told Skai he is concerned about Greece's hesitation to condemn Maduro and invited Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras to visit the country to witness first hand the state of its economy.

It follows similar decisions by the US, Canada, Germany and a number of South American nations, amid calls for President Nicolas Maduro to step down. In an interview on Sunday with CNN Turk, Maduro claimed that he was the "the victim of a USA conspiracy" that had resulted in the threat to his power. He said he also wanted his own diplomats "to defend Venezuelan interests in the U.S." comparing the arrangement to that of the US and Cuba, which had no diplomatic relations but maintained ties through lower-level officials in each country.

If Maduro doesn't comply with this demand, the European Union said it "will take further actions, including on the issue of recognition of the country's leadership in line with article 233 of the Venezuelan constitution".

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In claiming residential powers, Guaido said he was acting in accordance with two articles of the constitution that give the National Assembly president the right to hold power temporarily and call new elections.

The Saturday evening announcement that the missions would remain open was a retreat after days of bellicose rhetoric prompted by the US decision to recognize National Assembly leader Juan Guaido as the nation's rightful head of state.

The United States separately warned there would be a "significant response" if USA diplomats, Guaido or the opposition-controlled National Assembly were targeted with violence and intimidation.

The Venezuelan crisis came up for discussion at the UN Security Council on Saturday, which took no formal action due to divisions among members.

But as the deadline expired, the expulsion order was withdrawn and Maduro said he had begun negotiations to set up within 30 days an Interests Section in Caracas to maintain a minimum level of diplomatic contact, similar to the arrangement the USA had with Cuba until their 2015 rapprochement.

Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland said Monday the meeting will be in Ottawa on February 4.

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Venezuela's Guaido calls for new protests, Pope fears 'bloodbath'