Venezuela to close U.S. embassy, consulates

Venezuela to close U.S. embassy, consulates

It warned that the USA moves in Venezuela to recognize an opposition leader as president could lead to lawlessness and bloodshed there, accusing Washington of showing a disregard for global law.

In an interview with broadcaster Univision on Thursday, Guaido described the recent events as "the beginning of the end" for Maduro, who has presided over Venezuela's worst ever economic crisis.

"We need freedom, we need this corrupt government to get out, we need to all unite, so that there is peace in Venezuela", said Claudia Olaizola, a 54-year-old salesperson near the march's centre in the eastern Chacao district, a traditional opposition bastion.

Russia, which has had close relations with Venezuela under Maduro and Chavez, threw its weight behind the embattled Venezuelan leader. He escalated his campaign Wednesday by declaring the constitution gives him, as president of the congress, the authority to take over as interim president and form a transitional government until he calls new elections.

A senior United States official, speaking on condition of anonymity, warned Mr Maduro and his loyalists that Washington was ready to ramp up oil, gold and other sanctions.

As the death toll from days of street protests jumped to 26, a defiant Maduro announced the closure of Venezuela's embassy and consulates in the United States, a day after President Donald Trump's administration declared his regime "illegitimate".

Several former military leaders who remain in close contact with active troops said that for Guaido to even have a chance of winning over support from sectors of the military, he'd have to continue to galvanize the public and prove to skeptical military officers with much to lose that his promise of granting amnesty to those who promote change is honest.

A letter by a U.S. Embassy security officer requesting a police escort for a caravan of 10 vehicles was leaked earlier in the day and published on social media by a journalist for state-owned TV network Telesur.

Maduro's reelection previous year was contested by the opposition, and criticized internationally - but the military has repeatedly reiterated its loyalty to the socialist leader.

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Russian Federation on Thursday warned the United States not to intervene militarily in Venezuela, saying such a move would trigger a catastrophic scenario, the Interfax news agency cited the deputy foreign minister as saying.

Besides Turkey, Cuba and Bolivia also chose to back Maduro.

But there were no signs that security forces were widely heeding Guaido's call to go easy on demonstrators.

But none of the other five veto-wielding powers on the Security Council have formally backed Guaido. He has sought to shore up support from the armed forces by doling out key posts to top generals, including one as the head of the oil monopoly that is the source of virtually all of Venezuela's export earnings. Over the last decade, China has given Venezuela $65 billion in loans, cash and investment.

The United States, Brazil and other countries on Wednesday, January 23, endorsed Guaido's declaration in repudiation of President Nicolas Maduro, as more protests rocked the economically strapped country.

Many Venezuelans are awaiting Guaido's guidance on the often-beleaguered opposition's next steps.

Speaking at the World Youth Day in Panama, Pope Francis's spokesman said he was "praying for the victims and for all the people of Venezuela".

The latest events cap an especially tumultuous week for the troubled South American nation.

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