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Maduro reaches deal with Red Cross on aid – Venezuela crisis

  • 11 Apr 2019

US and dozens of other countries recognise opposition leader Juan Guaido as oil-rich country's interim leader against President Nicolas Maduro, who refuses to step down and accuses Guaido of being a US puppet.

The oil-rich Venezuela is enduring acute shortages of food, medicine and other basics. (March 30, 2019) ( Reuters )

Wednesday, April 11

Maduro says deal reached with Red Cross to send aid

President Nicolas Maduro announced Wednesday an agreement with the International Committee of the Red Cross to bring humanitarian aid into Venezuela.

In an about-face, Maduro said on national TV and radio that his government and the Red Cross had agreed "to work together with UN agencies to bring into Venezuela all the humanitarian aid that can be brought."

Pence asks UN to recognize Guaido as Venezuela's leader

US Vice President Mike Pence on Wednesday asked the United Nations to recognize Juan Guaido as the legitimate leader of Venezuela, telling the Security Council: "Nicolas Maduro must go."

Washington will present a draft UN resolution aimed at recognizing the opposition leader, revoking the credentials of Maduro's UN envoy and appointing Guaido's representative as the ambassador to the world body, Pence told the council.

"The time has come for the United Nations to recognize interim president Juan Guaido as the legitimate president of Venezuela and seat his representative in this body," Pence said.

Maduro shot back by saying in a televised speech that he had seen Pence "making a fool of himself in the United Nations Security Council" with his appeal.

Monday, April 8

Brazil's Bolsonaro says working with US to sow 'dissent' in Venezuela army

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 whoever took power.

Saturday, April 6

Venezuelans march to demand power, water and for Maduro to step down

Thousands took to the streets across Venezuela on Saturday in a mounting struggle for control of the crisis-wracked nation, where US- backed opposition leader Juan Guaido is attempting to oust socialist President Nicolas Maduro.

It was the first march Guaido has led since Maduro loyalists stripped him of legal protections he's granted as a congressman, opening a path to prosecute and possibly arrest him for allegedly violating the constitution.

The rallies also follow crippling power failures that left most of the country scrambling in the dark for days and without running water or phone service.

Speaking before several thousand people who packed a broad Caracas avenue, Guaido urged them to stay united and to keep up pressure until Maduro leaves power.

Friday, April 5

Pence announces sanctions on oil vessels

US Vice President Mike Pence announced sanctions on Friday on 34 vessels of Venezuela’s state oil company and two companies that ship crude to Cuba as Washington pushes to oust President Nicolas Maduro. 

“Those looking on should know this: All options are on the table. And Nicolas Maduro would do well not to test the resolve of the United States of America,” Pence said in a speech at Rice University in Houston.

Thursday April 4

Maduro asks citizens to store water

Maduro on Thursday said one of the goals of "the terrorist attack" is to "leave the people of Venezuela without water" and asked people to store and save water.

His remarks come after the repeated massive blackouts in the country caused shut down of electric water pumps, forcing a cut in water supplies.

Tuesday, April 2

Venezuela lawmakers strip opposition leader of his immunity

Venezuelan lawmakers stripped opposition leader Juan Guaido's immunity and authorised the high court to criminally prosecute him for proclaiming himself the crisis-hit country's ruler.

Guaido had earlier expressed fears of being abducted by government agents following a request by the Supreme Court to the Constituent Assembly to lift his parliamentary immunity.

The Constituent Assembly's president, Diosdado Cabello, announced pro-Maduro lawmakers had unanimously authorised the Supreme Court to prosecute Guaido, leaving him also liable to be charged for breaching a January 29 government ban on leaving the country.

The court had been investigating Guaido for usurping Maduro's powers by declaring himself interim president on January 23 - a move which rapidly gained international support.

"The people are determined and nothing is going to stop us," said a defiant Guaido in response. "There is no turning back in this process."

Guaido recognises neither the court nor the Constituent Assembly and insisted the decision was invalid.

Monday, April 1

Chief justice moves to strip opposition leader's immunity

Venezuela's chief justice on Monday asked lawmakers to strip Juan Guaido of immunity, taking a step toward prosecuting the opposition leader as he seeks to oust Maduro.

Supreme Court Justice Maikel Moreno said Guaido should be prosecuted for violating a ban on leaving the country when he went on a tour of Latin American nations that back a change in Venezuela's government. The opposition leader is also accused of inciting violence linked to street protests and receiving illicit funds from abroad.

Guaido dismissed the Maduro-stacked high court and Constituent Assembly as illegitimate and continued his calls for Maduro to step down.

"We must unite now more than ever," said Guaido at a Caracas university earlier Monday. "We must mount the biggest demonstration so far to reject what's happening."

Maduro replaces electricity minister amid blackouts

President Nicolas Maduro replaced his electricity minister on Monday in a move to address a series of blackouts plaguing the country.

In an address on state television, Maduro said he named Igor Gavidia, a 65-year-old electrical engineer who was previously president of state power generator Electrificacion del Caroni, to replace Electricity Minister Luis Motta.

The change came as Maduro reiterated plans for a 30-day "load administration" plan, which he first mentioned last week and which Venezuelans widely assume will be a way to ration electricity.

"Some changes are needed to strengthen, take responsibility for, and develop the new phase of this plan," Maduro said.

Guido calls on supporters to continue protests

Meanwhile, Juan Guaido has been attending rallies across the country - and at one in Caracas tear gas was fired near his supporters - just as the opposition leader was about to head on stage. 

There have not been any reports of injuries. Guaido continued to urge Venezuelans to take to the streets until President Nicolas Maduro steps down.

'Turkey will continue to support Venezuela'

Turkey’s foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu on Monday reiterated support for Venezuela and its elected leadership.

“Turkey will continue to support Venezuela, as problems there could affect all of Latin America and even the Caribbean,” Mevlut Cavusoglu told a joint news conference alongside his Venezuelan counterpart Jorge Arreaza in Ankara, Turkey's capital.

Arreaza said that Turkey has shown an exemplary friendship to Venezuela during a difficult time.

Maduro imposes 30-day rationing plan 

President Maduro is imposing a 30-day plan to ration electricity as nationwide power cuts continue to inflict misery on millions of people.

Maduro said on national television that the plan will help deal with the outages that have also cut off water supply and communications for days at a time.

The government also announced that it is reducing the length of the workday and keeping schools closed.

The 30 days will be used to restore stability to the country's electricity and water infrastructure. 

"To achieve consistency in the provision of electricity, the Bolivarian government decided to maintain the suspension of school activities and establish a workday until 2:00 pm in public and private institutions," Communications Minister Jorge Rodriguez said on state television.

Saturday, March 30

Venezuelan opposition holds fresh protest

Venezuelan security forces fired tear gas on Saturday to disperse demonstrators who turned out in Caracas to protest massive power outages that have kept much of the country in darkness since early March. 

AFP journalists on the scene said the security forces blocked opposition protesters from concentrating at certain points in the western side of the city. 

Venezuela has been hit by three major power outages this month, and opposition leader Juan Guaido had called on supporters to take to the streets to demonstrate.

Friday, March 29

New blackout hits Venezuela cities 

Caracas and other major Venezuelan cities were hit by a new electricity blackout, as they were barely recovering from another outage that had paralysed the country for days.

The blackout began around 7.10 pm (2310 GMT), leaving the capital as well as cities including Maracaibo, Valencia, Maracay and San Cristobal without electricity, according to users on social media networks.

Chinese aid arrives in Caracas

A plane load of medicine and supplies landed in Caracas, the first of many according to Chinese and Venezuelan officials on hand for the arrival of the aid.

The Chinese ambassador to Venezuela said the country was "an integral strategic partner and our friend", adding that "we are convinced that the Venezuelan people is capable of keeping the peace."

The shipment for Venezuela contained 65 tons of medicines and supplies which will be distributed by those designated by the government of President Maduro.

Tareck Al Aisssami, Venezuela's Minister of Industry and National Production said receiving the shipment  was "an exercise of sovereignty, independence, of dignity."

Also on Friday, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crecent Societies were preparing to deliver aid to Venezuela and can start distributing aid to an estimated 650,000 people in around 15 days.

Opposition leader Guaido was quick to claim credit for the planned aid distribution, saying on Twitter that announcements by the Red Cross and church leaders amounted to a victory for "our struggle."

Russians fixing missiles in Venezuela – US official 

A Russian military deployment to Venezuela that has prompted warnings by the United States was meant largely to fix a broken missile system, a US official said Friday.

Elliott Abrams, the US envoy heading the US effort to oust President Nicolas Maduro, said that Washington believes that Moscow sent around 100 people to provide "technical assistance."

"One of the things they are doing seems to be, and we have thought this from the very beginning, helping the regime with the S-300 ground-to-air missile system which apparently got all screwed up... by the blackout," Abrams told reporters.

The S-300 is a major missile defence programme designed to shoot down aircraft and other missiles that was designed by the Soviet Union. Russian official media in 2012 reported an S-300 shipment to Venezuela.

Thursday, March 28 

Guaido barred from holding public office for 15 years

Venezuelan opposition leader Guaido is to be barred from holding public office for 15years , the maximum punishment allowable by law, state comptroller Elvis Amoroso said on Thursday.

Amoroso said Guaido, the head of the opposition-controlled National Assembly who invoked the constitution to assume an interim presidency in January, had inconsistencies in his personal financial disclosures and a spending record that did not match his level of income.

Guaido rejected the announcement, saying, "we're going to continue in the streets."

Wednesday, March 27

Trump says Russian military must leave Venezuela

US President Donald Trump said on Wednesday that Russian soldiers needed 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 told reporters during a meeting with the wife of Guaido. 

Asked how that could be accomplished, Trump said: "We'll see. All options are open."

Arrival of Russian military a provocation – Pence

The arrival of two Russian air force planes containing nearly 100 troops in Venezuela last weekend was a provocation, US Vice President Mike Pence said on Wednesday.

"The United States views Russia's arrival of military planes this weekend as an unwelcome provocation," Pence told reporters.

Russian deployment includes 'cybersecurity personnel' –US 

A Russian military contingent that arrived in Venezuela over the weekend, drawing US condemnation, is believed by the US government to be made up of special forces, including "cybersecurity personnel," a US official said on Tuesday.

The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the United States was still assessing the Russian deployment, which Washington has called a "reckless escalation" of the situation in Venezuela.

Tuesday, March 26

Soldiers are in Venezuela in cooperation deal - Moscow

The presence of "Russian specialists" in Venezuela is governed by a military-technical cooperation agreement between the two countries that was signed in 2001, Russia's foreign ministry said.

The ministry did not provide any further details in its statement about the specialists. It effectively repeated earlier statements about the soldiers' presence in Venezuela.

Two Russian air force planes landed at the country's main airport on the weekend carrying a Russian defence official and nearly 100 soldiers, according to media reports.

Monday, March 25

Blackout was an 'attack'

President Nicolas Maduro's government blamed the outage on an "attack" targeting the country's main hydroelectric plant Guri, which supplies power to 80 percent of Venezuelans.

Communications Minister Jorge Rodriguez told state television that the opposition was responsible, claiming it "wants to plunge the population into profound unease."

Guaido, recognised as Venezuela's interim president by the US and many of its allies, countered on Twitter that Maduro's government "uses these moments to disinform and create anxiety."

Large new blackout strikes Venezuela

A widespread new power outage struck Caracas and several well-populated states on Monday, nearly two weeks after Venezuela was rocked by its worst blackout ever.

Authorities gave no immediate statements about the outage, which began shortly after 1700 GMT (1 pm) and appeared to have affected as many as 16 of Venezuela's 23 states, according to reports on social media.

But many in the capital were already bracing for the worst, fearing a repeat of the chaos that swept across the country earlier this month when residents had to survive without water service and lost touch with loved ones abroad for several days.

An airplane with the Russian flag is seen at Simon Bolivar International Airport in Caracas, Venezuela, March 24, 2019.(Reuters)

Sunday, March 24

Venezuela says Russian planes land for military cooperation

Two Russian air force planes landed at Venezuela's main airport on Saturday carrying a Russian defence official and nearly 100 troops, according to media reports, amid strengthening ties between Caracas and Moscow.

A flight-tracking website showed that two planes left from a Russian military airport bound for Caracas on Friday, and another flight-tracking site showed that one plane left Caracas on Sunday.

That comes three months after the two nations held military exercise s on Venezuelan soil that Maduro called a sign of strengthening relations, but which Washington criticized as Russian encroachment in the region.

The flights carried officials who arrived to "exchange consultations," wrote Russian government-owned news agency Sputnik, which quoted an unnamed source at the Russian embassy.

"Russia has various contracts that are in the process of being fulfilled, contracts of a technical military character," Sputnik quoted the source as saying.

Saturday, March 23

Russian air force planes land in Venezuela carrying troops -reports

Two Russian air force planes landed at Venezuela's main airport on Saturday carrying a Russian defence official and nearly 100 troops, according to media reports, amid strengthening ties between Caracas and Moscow.

A flight-tracking website showed that two planes left from a Russian military airport bound for Caracas on Friday, and another flight-tracking site showed that one plane left Caracas on Sunday.

That comes three months after the two nations held military exercises on Venezuelan soil that Maduro called a sign of strengthening relations, but which Washington criticised as Russian encroachment in the region.

Reporter Javier Mayorca wrote on Twitter on Saturday that the first plane carried Vasily Tonkoshkurov, chief of staff of the ground forces, adding the second was a cargo plane carrying 35 tonnes of material.

An Ilyushin IL-62 passenger jet and an Antonov AN-124 military cargo plane left for Caracas on Friday from Russian military airport Chkalovsky, stopping along the way in Syria, according to flight-tracking website Flightradar24.

The cargo plane left Caracas on Sunday afternoon, according to Adsbexchange, another flight-tracking site.

The flights carried officials who arrived to "exchange consultations," wrote Russian government-owned news agency Sputnik, which quoted an unnamed source at the Russian embassy.

"Russia has various contracts that are in the process of being fulfilled, contracts of a technical military character," Sputnik quoted the source as saying.

Wife of opposition leader to Maduro: 'Enough already!'

The wife of Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido had a brief message for Maduro on Saturday, following the arrest of her husband's chief of staff this week: "Enough already."

In an interview with Reuters in Peru, where she met with Venezuelan immigrants before a trip to the United States, Fabiana Rosales said the arrest of Roberto Marrero on terrorism accusations on Thursday was a "farcical" attempt by Maduro to break the opposition's morale.

Maduro says US financed mercenary 'plot' against him

President Maduro said on Saturday that the United States used frozen Venezuelan funds to bankroll mercenaries to assassinate him in a "plot" that was directed by Guaido.

"We have dismantled a plan organised personally by the diabolical puppet to kill me," Maduro told thousands of supporters in Caracas, referring to Guaido, who is recognised as interim president by more than 50 countries.

He said that Colombia, Venezuela's US-aligned neighbour, was also involved, and said that an unidentified Colombian paramilitary chief had been captured in the country "and is giving testimony."

Maduro's government gave details of the alleged plot on state television, with Information Minister Jorge Rodriguez saying "hitmen" from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras had been recruited "using big sums of money" and sent to Colombia ahead of missions into Venezuela to carry out "targeted assassinations" and "sabotage."

Rodriguez said Guaido's chief of staff, Roberto Marrero, received money from the United States and was a key organiser of the alleged operation.

Friday, March 22

US sanctions Venezuela bank

The United States imposed sanctions on state-owned Venezuelan development bank Bandes in response to the arrest of an aide to opposition leader 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.

Venezuela arrests Guaido aide for 'terrorism' in defiance of US

Maduro's government arrested a top aide of opposition leader Guaido.

Interior Minister Nestor Reverol accused the aide, Roberto Marrero, a 49-year-old lawyer who serves as Guaido's chief of staff, of leading a "terrorist cell" bent on attacking the government's leadership with the help of Colombian and Central American mercenaries as well as "acts of sabotage on public services to create chaos."

He said weapons and foreign cash were found in a predawn raid on Marrero's home.

He added that Marrero's 34-year-old bodyguard, Luis Paez, was also arrested and faced the same charges and a search was on for "identified" collaborators.

Later, President Maduro said he would "not be afraid to fight terrorist groups to put them in jail."

The development triggered alarm internationally. The United States, the European Union, and a grouping of Latin American nations plus Canada all denounced Marrero's arrest and demanded his immediate release.

The United States has repeatedly warned Maduro's government against arrest ing Guaido or his close aides, saying it would face unspecified repercussions.

Thursday, March 21

Venezuela intelligence agents detain Guaido aide

Venezuelan opposition legislator Sergio Vergara said on Thursday he had not been arrested by intelligence agents who raided his house before dawn.

He confirmed that Roberto Marrero, chief of staff to opposition leader Juan Guaido, had been detained by intelligence agents.

The agents had raided the Caracas residences of Marrero and Vergara before dawn on Thursday, Guaido said in a tweet.

Wednesday, March 20

Sanctions would hit ordinary people: UN

The United Nations' high commissioner for human rights said on Wednesday that recent US sanctions that are aimed at toppling Maduro threaten to deepen the nation's crisis.

Commissioner Michelle Bachelet told the Human Rights Council of the UN that Venezuela's "pervasive and devastating economic and social crisis" started before the US first levied sanctions.

But more recent sanctions hitting the state-run oil company PDVSA could "contribute to aggravating the economic crisis, with possible repercussions on people's basic rights and wellbeing," Bachelet said.

The Trump administration came down hard in late January when the US Treasury targeted PDVSA, aimed at depriving Maduro of billions in hard cash from oil production.

Trump warns of tougher sanctions

US President Donald Trump said Tuesday that the United States could impose harsher sanctions on Venezuela in its campaign to oust Maduro.

Recent power outages across Venezuela show that "something terrible is going on down there" and "we need to put an end" to the current dire situation, Trump said at a joint news conference with Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro at the White House.

Both Brazil and the United States have voiced support for Guaido, who has been recognised as the country's legitimate leader by about 50 countries.

In a bid to force a change of leadership, the United States has imposed oil sanctions on Venezuela as well as sanctions on individuals associated with the government of Maduro, who charges that he is the target of a US coup plot.

The US could impose "a lot tougher" sanctions on Venezuela if needed, Trump said, and he also repeated that "all options are open" when dealing with the crisis in Venezuela. He added that the United States is "not looking for anything other than taking care of a lot of people."

US officials say they are focused on putting diplomatic and financial pressure on Maduro's government, which says Trump is preparing for military intervention in a country struggling with hyperinflation and shortages of basic goods. 

Tuesday, March 19

Trump urges Venezuela military to end support for Maduro

Trump on Tuesday urged Venezuela's military to desert their president, calling Maduro a "Cuban puppet," in a joint appeal with Brazil.

"We call on members of the Venezuelan military to end their support for Maduro, who is really nothing more than a Cuban puppet," Trump told a joint news conference at the White House with Brazil's new right-wing president, Jair Bolsonaro.

Venezuela opposition takes control of diplomatic properties in US

Representatives of Venezuelan opposition leader Guaido have taken control of three of the country's diplomatic properties in the United States, Guaido's US envoy said on Monday, as the opposition presses its bid to oust Maduro.

The envoy, Carlos Vecchio, said the opposition had gained control of two buildings belonging to Venezuela's defence ministry in Washington and one consular building in New York. He added that the group expects to take control of Venezuela's embassy in Washington "in the days to come."

The moves come after Guaido, the president of the opposition-controlled National Assembly, invoked the constitution to assume an interim presidency in January, arguing that Maduro's May 2018 re-election was illegitimate.  

"We are taking these steps in order to preserve the assets of the Venezuelans here in this country," Vecchio said from one of the buildings, the office of Venezuela's military attache to Washington, after removing a portrait of Maduro from the wall and replacing it with one of Guaido.

Saturday, March 16

Venezuelan opposition launches new round of protests

Guaido embarked on a new stage of his campaign to oust Maduro on Saturday.

Addressing large crowds in the northern city of Valencia, Guaido pledged to deliver a better life for struggling Venezuelans as he began a planned tour of the country gripped by an economic and political crisis.

"We will get very well organised in the operation freedom, in the operation for the definitive end of usurpation in Venezuela," said US-backed Guaido from a podium draped with a large Venezuelan flag.

The leader of the opposition-controlled National Assembly also drew cheers with his denunciations of Maduro, although he warned that difficult challenges still lie ahead.

Since returning to Venezuela from a Latin American tour on March 4, Guaido has led anti-government activities in the capital of Caracas and announced plans to take his message to other regions. 

Friday, March 15

American Airlines suspends flight to Venezuela

American Airlines has stopped flights to Venezuela because of safety concerns after the pilots' union told its members to refuse to work the flights.

American was the last major US carrier to fly to the troubled country. It flew daily to Caracas and Maracaibo from Miami.

The airline said it temporarily stopped the flights and won't operate to countries it doesn't consider safe.

Late Thursday night, the president of the Allied Pilots Association directed pilots to refuse Venezuela assignments.

Thursday, March 14

US revokes visas of 340 more people close to Maduro

The United States has revoked the visas of 340 additional people close to Maduro and is considering adding more to the list, the State Department said.

The latest revocations –– which include visas for 107 former diplomats and their families –– brings the total to more than 600 since late 2018, spokesman Robert Palladino said.

All American diplomats have left Venezuela – Pompeo

The United States has withdrawn all remaining diplomatic personnel from its embassy in Caracas as the crisis in Venezuela deepens, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said.

"Today, all US diplomats remaining in Venezuela departed the country. I know it is a difficult moment for them," he said in a statement.

"They are fully dedicated to our mission of supporting the Venezuelan people's aspirations to live in a democracy and build a better future for their families."

A convoy was seen leaving the US Embassy in Caracas in the morning, and the American flag is no longer flying outside the embassy.

Pompeo tweeted earlier this week that the diplomats would be 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.

Government calls public sector back to work as blackout recedes

Venezuela's public employees were called to return to work Thursday after the government ended a nearly week-long hiatus caused by an unprecedented nationwide blackout that deepened widespread anger against Maduro.

Communications Minister Jorge Rodriguez said in an address on state television Wednesday that Maduro decided the public sector would resume work on Thursday, although state schools would remain closed for an extra day.

The span of decreed public holidays started last Friday, a day after power went out in 22 of Venezuela's 23 states, disrupting transport, causing stockpiled food to rot in fridges and forcing some Caracas residents to source water from sewage outflows as taps ran dry.

By Wednesday, electricity was back in Caracas and other regions. But swaths of western Venezuela remained without power, including the city of Maracaibo where more than 500 shops reported having been looted, according to a retailers' association.

The blackout -- the worst in the history of the once-rich oil-producing nation -- deepened an already grave economic crisis.

Wednesday, March 13

China offers help Venezuela who seeks to restore massive power outage

President Maduro's government scrambled on Wednesday to return power to western Venezuela following heavy looting in the country's second largest city, while China offered to help the South American nation end its worst blackout on record.

Power had returned to many parts of Venezuela after a nationwide outage last week, with the country's main port terminal of Jose, which is crucial for the country's oil exports, resuming operations

The ruling Socialist Party blamed the outage on an act of US sabotage, accusing President Donald Trump of being responsible for several cyber attacks on Venezuela's main dam.

But power supplies remained patchy in the sweltering western state of Zulia, where anger after nearly a week without power overflowed into street violence.

Guaido vows to oust Maduro as thousands of Venezuelans protest

Guaido vowed Tuesday to take Maduro's place in the presidential palace "very soon," as thousands of people took to the streets of Caracas to protest.

"We need an office to work in, so very soon, and when we have the armed forces totally on our side, we'll go to find my office there in Miraflores. Very soon," Guaido told supporters, who chanted back: "Yes, you can!"

Demonstrators banged pots and sounded car horns at the protest in a square in the east of the capital. Many waved large banners calling on Maduro to go.

Guaido under investigation

Venezuelan officials reported blackouts easing in some areas Tuesday, while the chief prosecutor said opposition leader Guaido is being investigated for allegedly sabotaging the national power grid, whose collapse last week has inflicted misery on millions.

The announcement by Tarek William Saab, the attorney general, escalated the Venezuelan government's standoff with Guaido, although there are questions about how aggressively authorities would move against a man who is staunchly supported by the US as well as many Venezuelans.

Guaido, who is trying to oust Maduro and hold elections, blames corruption and incompetence for nearly a week of nationwide blackouts that deprived most of the already struggling population not just of electricity, but also water and communications.

Maduro has blamed a devastating multi-day blackout plaguing Venezuela on Washington, and declared "victory" in what he called an "electricity war" triggered by the Pentagon.

He also called for support from allies including Russia and China as well as the United Nations in investigating the US "cyber attack" he said was responsible for the blackout.

Tuesday, March 12

Prosecutor seeks probe of Guaido over electrical 'sabotage'

Venezuela's Chief Prosecutor Tarek Saab said he has asked the Supreme Court to open an investigation into Guaido for alleged involvement in "sabotage" of the country's electrical system.

US to pull out all remaining diplomatic personnel

The United States will withdraw its remaining diplomatic staff from the embassy in Caracas as the crisis in Venezuela worsens, Secretary of State Pompeo said.

"This decision reflects the deteriorating situation in Venezuela as well as the conclusion that the presence of US diplomatic staff at the embassy has become a constraint on US policy," Pompeo added.

State of alarm declared

Venezuela's National Assembly has declared a state of 'national alarm' following power outages that have left millions in the country without electricity.

Parliament approved the decree proposed by its leader and self-proclaimed acting president Guaido. Electricity is returning to parts of the capital, but the rest of the country is without power. 

Schools and businesses across the country remain closed. The blackout has also affected communications networks, and hospitals have been struggling to connect to generators. 

Pompeo blames Russia, Cuba for Venezuelan crisis

Pompeo on Monday blamed Russia and Cuba for causing Venezuela’s crisis by supporting Maduro and said he had urged India not to help Maduro by buying Venezuelan oil.

His comments came after the US Treasury Department imposed sanctions on Russian bank Evrofinance Mosnarbank for helping Venezuelan state oil firm PDVSA evade US financial restrictions.

“This story is not complete without acknowledging the central role Cuba and Russia have played and continue to play in undermining the democratic dreams of the Venezuelan people and their welfare,” Pompeo told reporters.

The Trump administration has taken several steps in recent weeks to ratchet up pressure on Maduro and bolster Guaido, recognised by the United States and several other states as the interim president.

Monday, March 11

Water and power outages continue

Venezuelans converged on a polluted river in Caracas to fill water bottles and held scattered protests in several cities as growing chaos took hold in a country whose people have had little power, water and communications for days.

Late Monday, Maduro said on national television that progress had been made in restoring power in Venezuela.

He also said two people who were allegedly trying to sabotage power facilities were captured and were providing information to authorities, though he gave no details.

Guaido and his chief ally, the United States, say Maduro's claims that the US sabotaged the power grid with a "cyberattack" are an attempt to divert attention from the government's own failings.

Sunday, March 10

Venezuela suspends school, business activities 

Venezuela is suspending school and business activities on Monday amid a continuing blackout, Information Minister Jorge Rodriguez said in a televised broadcast on Sunday, the second such cancellation since power went out last week.

Guaido for 'state of alarm' declaration

Guaido said he will ask the Venezuelan legislature to declare a "state of alarm" in order to request international aid amid a massive power outage.

Guaido, who declared himself acting president in January, told reporters he has convened an emergency session of the National Assembly "to take immediate actions with respect to the necessary humanitarian aid."

Maduro blames US cyberattack for blackouts

Venezuelans woke up to a fourth day of an unprecedented nationwide blackout on Sunday, leaving residents concerned about the impacts of the lack of electricity on the South American country's health, communications and transport systems.

Maduro has blamed the blackout on an act of "sabotage" by the United States at the Guri hydroelectric dam, but experts say it is the outcome of years of underinvestment.

"The national electrical system has been subject to multiple cyberattacks," Maduro wrote on Twitter on Sunday. "However, we are making huge efforts to restore stable and definitive supply in the coming hours."

Saturday, March 9

More blackouts as opposition, government rally

The Venezuelan opposition and government loyalists held rival demonstrations in Caracas on Saturday, as both sides prepared for what some fear could be a protracted power struggle. 

The rallies unfolded as power and communications outages continued to hit Venezuela, intensifying the hardship of a country paralysed by economic and political crisis. 

The blackouts heightened tension between the bitterly divided factions, which accused each other of being responsible for the collapse of the power grid. 

“Hard times are ahead,” said opposition leader Guaido, who addressed crowds with a loudspeaker after security forces earlier dismantled a speakers’ stage that the opposition had erected. 

He said he planned to tour Venezuela to seek support and lay the groundwork for a massive rally in Caracas.

Maduro stepped up verbal attacks on Guaido, calling him “a clown and puppet” in a speech to supporters outside Miraflores, the presidential palace. He scoffed at Guaido’s claim in late January to be interim president of Venezuela, a declaration supported by the United States and about 50 other countries. 

“Not a president, not anything,” said Maduro, who accused Guaido and his US allies of sabotaging Venezuela’s Guri Dam, one of the world’s largest hydroelectric stations and the cornerstone of Venezuela’s electrical grid. 

He said authorities had restored 70 percent of power in Venezuela since what he called an “international cyberattack” late on Thursday, but progress was lost on Saturday when “infiltrators” allegedly struck again.

TRT World's Ben Said reports.

Fifteen patients die

Fifteen Venezuelans with advanced kidney disease have died after being unable to get dialysis during the country’s extended power outage, an NGO reported on Saturday. 

“Between yesterday and today, there were 15 deaths for lack of dialysis,” said Francisco Valencia, director of the Codevida health rights group. 

“The situation of people with kidney failure is very difficult, critical, we are talking about 95 percent of dialysis units, which today likely hit 100 percent, are paralysed, due to the power outage,” Valencia added.

Rival rallies in Venezuela

Venezuelan opposition protesters converged on a main avenue in Caracas and other parts of the country, venting their anger over a nationwide power blackout, shortages of basic necessities and the government of President Maduro. 

At the same time, supporters of Maduro gathered in a separate district of the Venezuelan capital in a rival demonstration that illustrated the gulf between two factions struggling for control of a nation paralysed by an economic and political crisis. 

Meanwhile, more nationwide power and communications outages hit Venezuela, hours after an earlier blackout appeared to be easing. 

Opposition demonstrators pushed against the shields of riot police, who withdrew from the area but maintained a large presence. 

Some protesters elsewhere in the city said lines of police were blocking them from reaching the rally organised by opposition leader Guaido, creating a sense of confusion compounded by the new power shutdown. 

Meanwhile, demonstrators at the pro-Maduro rally danced and waved flags on what organisers labeled a "day of anti-imperialism," a show of defiance toward the United States, which has imposed oil sanctions on Venezuela in an attempt to oust the president. 

The caps and shirts of many were red, the colour associated with the self-proclaimed "socialist revolution" of leader Hugo Chavez, who died six years ago and was succeeded by his protege, Maduro. 

"They're planning to tire us out, but they no longer have a way of containing the people, who have decided to ensure the end of the usurpation," Guaido tweeted on Saturday.

"We're continuing the battle and victory over the permanent and brutal aggression against our people," Maduro wrote on Twitter.

"Today, more than ever, we're anti-imperialists. We will never surrender!"

Friday, March 8

Power returns to some parts of Venezuela

The power supply was gradually being restored to large areas of Caracas on Friday afternoon, as well as parts of Miranda state and Vargas, which contains the country's international airport and main port.

Pro-government state broadcaster VTV reported that electricity had been restored to 16 neighbourhoods around Caracas.

That account could not be immediately verified, though some Venezuelans on social media began reporting they had power. Streetlights could also be seen turning on in a Caracas neighbourhood.

However, the lights in one office building flickered on and then turned off.

Guaido attends International Women's Day

Guaido, Venezuela's opposition leader spoke at a Woman's Day event.

"There is no normalcy today," said Guaido. "We know clearly that the end of darkness comes with the end of the usurpation in Venezuela."   

Maduro blames power outrage on sabotage

Maduro has said sabotage is responsible for a major power outage across the country. 

The blackout affected 15 of Venezuela's 23 states, as well as the capital. People crowded the streets of Caracas as the metro system shut down and buses quickly became overcrowded.

Critics say mismanagement and corruption have had an impact on the power grid, while Maduro blames political rivals. 

Thursday, March 7

Trump's envoy vows sanctions on pro-Maduro banks 

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 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.

Abrams, a neoconservative who has long advocated an activist US role in the world, said he had been asking European banks to take steps to shield individual Venezuelans' assets from Maduro's government. 

He did not name the banks.

Venezuela opposition leader says government is threatening Germany

Venezuela's Guaido said in an interview that the expulsion of the German ambassador by Caracas was a threat against Germany, Der Spiegel magazine reported on Thursday.

"This action represents a threat against Germany," Guaido was quoted as saying on Thursday.

German ambassador Daniel Kriener was expelled two days after he and diplomats from other embassies welcomed home Guaido at Caracas airport.

Wednesday, March 6

US to revoke more visas of Venezuelans

Vice President Mike Pence said the US will revoke more visas from prominent Venezuelans as it seeks to increase pressure on Maduro to give up power.

Pence told the Latino Coalition that the US will revoke 77 visas held by officials in the Maduro government or their relatives.

He said, "The time has come to liberate Venezuela from Cuba."

Venezuela expels German ambassador for meddling, detains American journalist

Venezuela's government expelled the German ambassador while press advocacy groups said an American journalist had been detained.

Ambassador Daniel Kriener was expelled two days after he and diplomats from other embassies welcomed home opposition leader Guaido at the Caracas airport. 

The government declared Kriener persona non grata and gave him 48 hours to leave the country, accusing him of meddling in internal affairs, although it did not give specific details.

Addressing the National Assembly, Guaido said Maduro's government is the "persona non grata" in Venezuela.

Separately, Venezuela's National Press Workers Union said on Twitter that American journalist Cody Weddle was arrested at his home on Wednesday by military counterintelligence agents. Espacio Publico, a free speech group, said he had been accused of treachery and that the agents took his computer and equipment.

US to punish foreign entities funding Maduro

The United States will impose sanctions on foreign institutions helping to finance President Maduro, the White House said on Wednesday.

The measure was announced by President Trump's national security advisor John Bolton.

"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 said in a statement.

Venezuela crisis worsened by sanctions, UN says
Sanctions have worsened Venezuela's crippling economic and political crisis, the UN human rights chief said.

UN rights chief Michelle Bachelet said sanctions had exacerbated the crisis but also slammed Maduro's "violations of civil and political rights" in her annual report to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.

"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," said former Chile president Bachelet. 

Tuesday, March 5

Maduro says he will defeat opposition

Maduro said he would defeat a "crazed minority" determined to destabilise the country in his first public comments since opposition leader Guaido defied him by returning home on Monday.

Maduro, during a ceremony to commemorate the sixth anniversary of the death of his predecessor Hugo Chavez, called on supporters to attend "anti-imperialist" demonstrations on March 9, coinciding with an opposition march announced by Guaido.

Guaido vows to paralyse public sector to squeeze Maduro

Guaido held talks with Venezuela's public sector unions on Tuesday about staging strikes to help bring down the government.

The strikes would ratchet up pressure on a weakened Maduro by giving several million state employees, a traditional bastion of government support, a chance to demonstrate their frustration with an administration that has overseen Venezuela's deepest ever economic crisis.

The opposition is also seeking to capitalise on momentum spurred by Guaido's triumphant return to Venezuela on Monday to press for an end to Maduro's rule.

Monday, March 4

Guaido returns home, calls for fresh protests

Guaido defied the threat of arrest to return home on Monday, arriving at Caracas international airport where he was met by cheering supporters, television footage showed.

Flag-waving Venezuelans turned out to await the return of opposition leader who embarks on a renewed push against embattled President Maduro.

"We know the risks we face, that's never stopped us. The regime, the dictatorship must understand," Guaido told a delirious crowd.

"We're stronger than ever, let's carry on in the streets, mobilised," he said.

Guaido called on people to flood the streets of cities across the country on Saturday [March 9] to protest Maduro's hold on power.

Earlier, in a video shared on social networks, Guaido warned that if Maduro's government "tries to kidnap us ... it will be one of the last mistakes it makes."

The self-declared acting president added on Twitter that should he be detained, he has left "clear instructions to our international allies and parliamentary brothers."

Also on Monday, US warned of "swift response" to any "threats" against Guaido.

Sunday, March 3

'Mobilise all over the country' – Guaido

Venezuela's opposition leader called for mass protests across the country on Monday as he announced his return to the country after a week touring Latin American allies.

"I'm announcing my return to the country. I am calling on the Venezuelan people to mobilise all over the country tomorrow at 11:00 am (1500 GMT)," Guaido said on Twitter.

Guaido, who has been recognised by more than 50 countries as interim president, gave no details of when or how he would return, however.

Russia vows to prevent US military intervention 

Russia will do all possible to prevent a US military intervention in Venezuela, the TASS news agency quoted 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 an intervention in Venezuela,” Valentina Matvienko told Venezuelan Vice President Delcy Rodriguez in Moscow. 

“But we will do all in order not to allow this,” said Matvienko, a close ally of President Vladimir Putin.

Saturday, March 2

Guaido to return home after Ecuador visit

Guaido said he would return to Venezuela from Ecuador, where he was meeting with President Lenin Moreno during a tour of Latin American nations to muster support. 

Guaido told reporters that he was calling for new protests on Monday and Tuesday in Venezuela. He did not say when or how he planned to return.

Venezuela's education system crumbles

Venezuela’s economic crisis has impacted the entire economy, particularly health and education. 

Many schools across the country don’t have food or running water. And with low salaries, it’s becoming increasingly hard to keep teachers employed. 

Lavrov condemns 'destructive interference' by US

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Saturday condemned what he called America's "flagrant interference" and "destructive influence" in Venezuela, in a telephone conversation with his US counterpart Mike Pompeo.

"The provocation and external destructive influence, under the hypocritical pretext of humanitarian aid has nothing to do with the democratic process," said Lavrov, in comments cited by his foreign ministry.

Friday, March 1

US sanctions Venezuelans over blocking aid

The Trump administration imposed sanctions on Friday on six high-ranking members of the Venezuelan security forces and revoked the visas of other officials and their relatives in the latest effort to pressure Maduro into leaving office.

The United States "will continue to target Maduro loyalists prolonging the suffering of the victims of this man-made humanitarian crisis," US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement.

The list includes National Guard Commander Richard Lopez and five other police and military officials based near the Colombian or Brazilian borders.

The US State Department later said it had revoked the travel visas of 49 people as it cracked down on Maduro supporters.

Meanwhile, tensions between Venezuela and Colombia are feared to rise as defecting Venezuelan soldiers seek shelter in the neighbouring country.

Russia vows to continue support for Venezuela

Russia will maintain its support for Venezuela's government, including with aid supplies, Foreign Minister Lavrov said on Friday.

"Russia will continue to assist the Venezuelan authorities in resolving social and economic problems, including through the provision of legitimate humanitarian aid," Lavrov said at a joint press conference with Venezuelan Vice President Delcy Rodriguez.

At the start of talks with Rodriguez in Moscow, Lavrov expressed Russia's "support and solidarity" for Venezuelan leader Maduro in the country's political standoff.

"We are very closely cooperating and coordinating all our steps on the international arena," Lavrov said.

"This has acquired special significance now that Venezuela is facing a frontal attack and unabashed interference in its domestic affairs."

Maduro ordered move of state oil office to Moscow

Venezuelan Vice President Rodriguez said after talks with Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov in Moscow on Friday that President Maduro had ordered a European office of state oil company PDVSA to move to Moscow.

Venezuela has been seeking ways to avoid US sanctions in its oil exports. The impoverished country has the world's largest known oil reserves, exceeding those of US ally Saudi Arabia.

Maduro accuses the US of attempting to orchestrate a political coup by backing Guaido who has named himself interim president.

Thursday, February 28

Russia and China used their veto at the UN Security Council to block a US resolution calling for new presidential elections in Venezuela and unimpeded deliveries of humanitarian aid.

France, Germany and Britain were among nine countries that backed the proposed measure. 

South Africa also voted no while Indonesia, Equatorial Guinea and Ivory Coast abstained.

Russia's draft resolution - which urged a settlement "through peaceful means" and insisted that all humanitarian aid be agreed by Maduro's government - also failed. The resolution won only four votes: Russia, China, South Africa and Equatorial Guinea.

Seven countries including the United States, European countries and Peru opposed the Russian measure and there were four abstentions .

While world powers debated Venezuela's future, the border between Colombia and Venezuela remained officially closed. 

But thousands of people still continued to pass through the illegal border crossings every day. 

Guaido says will return to Caracas despite threats

Guaido, visiting Brazil to drum up support for his bid to push for a change of government in his country, said on Thursday he will return to Caracas by Monday despite threats of imprisonment.

Speaking to reporters after meeting with Brazil's right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro, Guaido said the government of President Maduro was "weak, lacking support in Venezuela and international recognition.

Guaido faces possible arrest if he returns to Venezuela for disobeying a Supreme Court order that he should not leave the country pending an investigation.

Wednesday, February 27

Venezuelan vice president to fly into Moscow for talks

Rodriguez will hold talks with Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov in Moscow on Friday, the RIA news agency reported, the latest in a flurry of visits by Venezuelan politicians to staunch ally Russia.

Rodriguez will talk to Lavrov about cooperating with Russia to prevent military action against Venezuela, RIA news agency said, citing the head of Venezuela's foreign ministry Jorge Arreaza.

"Our cooperation and the situation in Venezuela will be discussed, as well as coordination of actions to prevent any kind of war against Venezuela," Arreaza was cited as saying.

Moscow has backed socialist President Maduro in the face of a challenge from opposition leader Guaido who declared himself interim president in January, a move backed by most Western nations.

Guaido to visit Brazil

Guaido will visit Brazil on Thursday and meet with Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro and other government officials, his envoy in Brasilia, Maria Teresa Belandria, said by telephone on Wednesday.

His visit to Brasilia was first reported by Venezuela's El Nacional newspaper, which said Guaido will visit several Latin American nations to discuss the crisis in his country. 

Brazil and dozens of other countries have recognised him as the interim president of Venezuela, ratcheting up pressure on Maduro.

Venezuela border with Colombia still closed
A border crossing on the Tachira River, connecting Colombia and Venezuela, remains closed on the Venezuelan side following violent clashes last weekend.

A burnt-out lorry and several containers remain strewn in the middle of the Simon Bolivar International bridge in Cucuta.

Colombian border guards and police were monitoring the bridge, which is open on their side, on Wednesday.

Tuesday, February 26

US wants UN Security Council vote this week on aid

The United States said it wants the United Nations Security Council to vote this week on a draft resolution calling for elections in Venezuela and the delivery of humanitarian aid, but the move is likely to be opposed by Russia and other states.

Speaking ahead of a council meeting on Venezuela, the US special envoy for Venezuela, Elliott Abrams, also told reporters Washington would impose more sanctions on "high-ranking members of the regime and their financial affairs" this week and next.

Bolivia supports dialogue to solve Venezuelan crisis

Bolivia's President Evo Morales thanked members of the Lima Group for supporting solution of the crisis in Venezuela through dialogue instead of military intervention.

The Lima Group is a block comprising 14 Latin American nations focused on finding a resolution to Venezuela's long-standing crisis.

“Peace is the only way for our people,” Morales tweeted.

He requested the group "to seek a solution through dialogue as an option to save lives and prevent war from bringing destruction to our Latin America."

Venezuela to deport Univision team

US television network Univision said Venezuela was deporting a news team led by anchor Jorge Ramos after they were briefly detained at the presidential palace because their line of questioning upset Maduro.

The six-person team was held for more than two hours in the Miraflores palace after Maduro said he did not like their questions, Ramos told reporters after arriving back at his Caracas hotel which was surrounded by armed intelligence agents.

Venezuelan Information Minister Jorge Rodriguez accused Univision on Twitter of staging a "cheap show."

Security Council sets open meeting on Venezuela

The UN Security Council has scheduled an open meeting on the latest events in Venezuela at the request of the United States.

UN political chief Rosemary DiCarlo is expected to brief the afternoon meeting.

The Security Council is divided over Venezuela. The US and many Western and Latin American nations back opposition leader Guaido as interim president, while Russia, China and other countries support President Maduro and oppose any interference in Venezuela's internal affairs.

Monday, February 25

Guaido, Pence agree to tighten noose on Maduro

US Vice President Pence and Guaido agreed on a strategy to tighten the noose around Maduro following a meeting with regional allies in Colombia.

Pence announced more sanctions against Venezuela and $56 million in aid for neighbouring countries grappling with a flood of people fleeing the economically stricken country.

Guaido, his family face "serious and credible" threats

Colombia's foreign minister said Guaido and his family face "serious and credible" threats on their lives that if carried out would lead to a forceful international response against Maduro.

Carlos Holmes Trujillo's accusation came at the conclusion of a Monday meeting of regional diplomats and Pence to discuss Venezuela's crisis.

Lima Group issues statement against Maduro

The Lima Group of nations and Guaido issued an 18-point declaration in which they reiterate their call on the Venezuelan military to recognise Guaido as their commander in chief. 

The Lima Group of Latin American countries and Canada urged the International Criminal Court to declare Maduro's refusal to allow in humanitarian aid a "crime against humanity."

The group of allies of Guaido hit out at "the serious humanitarian situation in Venezuela, the violence of Maduro's criminal regime against the civilian population and the negation of access to international aid."

The Lima Group rejected the idea of using force to achieve a democratic transition.

Brazil wants non-military pressure on Venezuela

Brazil's vice president, retired general Hamilton Mourao, said 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.

Mourao said Brazilian officials "believe in diplomatic and international economic pressure."

Pence urges freeze on Venezuela oil assets

Pence asked a coalition of mostly Latin American nations to freeze assets of Venezuela's state oil company following a weekend of violent clashes over blocked US aid convoys.

Pence met in Colombia's capital on Monday with regional leaders in the Lima Group after President Maduro's security forces blocked US aid from crossing Venezuela's borders.

At least four protesters died while more than 300 were injured in nationwide clashes.

Pence called on regional leaders to freeze PDVSA assets, a measure taken earlier by the US.

US ramps up pressure on Maduro with fresh sanctions

The United States imposed sanctions on four Venezuelans as it ramped up pressure on Maduro, whose election Washington sees as illegitimate.

The action, which was announced in a post on the US Treasury's website, coincides with Pence attending a meeting of the regional Lima Group of nations in Bogota, where he was expected to announce steps against Maduro's government.

The United States has recognised Guaido as Venezuela's interim president.

Earlier, Pence passed on a message from US President Trump to Guaido, telling him "we are with you 100 percent."

Military intervention must be avoided – EU

The European Union 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 Guaido was in Bogota to hold talks with allies in the regional Lima Group of countries on measures to compel President Maduro to leave office.

Germany backs sanctions against Maduro

Germany favours sanctions targeting Maduro and his immediate aides over violence against opposition protesters, a government spokeswoman said.

"We are in favour of sanctions targeting Maduro and people immediately close to him specifically and that do not make the lives of Venezuelan citizens worse," Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Adebahr said during a regular government news conference.

Sunday, February 24

Guaido boosts military rhetoric in Venezuela crisis

Guaido has called on the international community to consider "all options" to resolve Venezuela's crisis, a dramatic escalation in rhetoric that echoes comments from the Trump administration hinting at potential US military involvement.

Pence to announce 'concrete steps' – official

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, Colombia, a senior US administration official said, declining to comment on details of the new measures.

"What happened yesterday is not going to deter us from getting humanitarian aid into Venezuela," the official said, speaking with reporters on condition of anonymity.

On Saturday, convoys of US aid were blocked by pro-Maduro military from getting into Venezuela.

UN chief says 'shocked' by civilian deaths

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said he was "shocked and saddened" by the civilian deaths in Venezuela, and called on all sides to lower tension.

Guterres issued a statement on the situation a day after an opposition attempt to bring humanitarian supplies into the country was repelled by security forces firing tear gas and rubber bullets.

Pompeo confident Maduro's 'days are numbered'

Pompeo expressed confidence that embattled Maduro's "days are numbered," amid a violent impasse over US-led aid effort.

"Predictions are difficult. Picking exact days is difficult," Pompeo said on CNN's 'State of the Union.' 

"I'm confident that the Venezuelan people will ensure that Maduro's days are numbered."

Two soldiers ask for asylum in Brazil

Two Venezuelan soldiers have sought refuge in Brazil, Colonel Georges Feres Kanaan, a member of Brazil's migration service, told AFP.

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."

Brazil condemns violence used by government

Brazil said it condemns violence used by 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.

EU's Mogherini denounces use of 'armed groups'

The European Union condemned Caracas for its use of violence and "armed" supporters to prevent the entry of aid into Venezuela. 

"We reject the use of irregular armed groups to intimidate civilians and lawmakers who have mobilised to distribute aid," EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said in a statement in the name of the bloc's 28 members. 

President Maduro says the "relief" effort led by opposition leader Guaido is a US-orchestrated plot to oust him from power.

Saturday, February 23

Pence, Venezuela's Guaido to meet in Bogota 

Pence plans to meet with Venezuela's opposition leader Guaido in Bogota on Monday on the sidelines of a meeting of the Lima Group of regional leaders, a Pence aide said.

Two killed in botched aid distribution operation
A high-risk opposition campaign to deliver humanitarian aid into Venezuela descended into deadly chaos after Maduro's security forces fired on demonstrators and aid trucks were set ablaze as his blockade held firm.

Two people, including a 14-year-old boy, were killed in clashes with security forces on the Brazil-Venezuela border amid efforts to bring in aid there, a human rights group said.

Guaido had set a Saturday deadline for the delivery of food and medical aid stockpiled in Colombia and Brazil.

Maduro cuts ties with Colombia

Maduro said his government has broken relations with Colombia and would expel some Colombian diplomatic staff after Colombia assisted the opposition's efforts to bring humanitarian aid into the country.

"Patience is exhausted, I can't bare 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.

He said the ambassador and consular staff would have to leave Venezuela within 24 hours.

Earlier, a protester was killed in clashes with Venezuelan armed forces near border with Brazil, a relative told the AP news agency.

Guaido appears in a video with 'defected' military officers

Guaido tweeted a video of him greeting the Venezuelan military officers who've "defected" to Columbia and now recognise him as the interim president.

"The soldiers with whom I have spoken have responded to their desire for life and future for their children that the usurper does not guarantee them," Guaido said in a tweet.

"Venezuelan soldier, the message is clear: Do what the constitution tells you. There will be amnesty and guarantees for those who take the side of the people."

Aid truck crosses Brazil border into Venezuela – Guaido

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.

Protesters burn bus in Venezuela border town

Protesters along Venezuela's border with Colombia stole a red city bus and set it on fire to express outrage over thwarted humanitarian aid deliveries.

Flames from the bus blaze in the border town of Urena also caused nearby power lines to spark.

Protests broke out early in the day as Guaido vowed to move in emergency food and medicine from the US over objections from President Maduro.

But Guaido and other opposition leaders showed no immediate signs of being able to get the aid from a warehouse in Cucuta, Colombia to Venezuela.

Guaido sends aid convoy from Colombia

Guaido has sent off a humanitarian aid convoy of trucks from Colombia toward the border of Venezuela at a pivotal moment in a showdown with President Maduro.

Guaido on Saturday spoke from the border town of Cucuta, Colombia where US aid has been stored.

The opposition leader said that he is standing among tons of supplies, but Maduro's government favours blocking it from entering into Venezuela.

Maduro has closed the country's borders and National Guard soldiers have clashed with protesters.

Troops 'fire' tear gas to disperse people at Colombian border

Venezuelan troops near the Colombian border fired tear gas at a group of people seeking to cross into the neighbouring nation to work, according to a Reuters witness.

The government of President Maduro has shuttered borders as opposition leaders prepare to bring humanitarian aid into Venezuela against the wishes of the government. 

Maduro says the "relief" effort led by Guaido is a US-orchestrated plot to oust him from power, and take over Venezuela which has the world's largest proven oil reserves in the world.

Venezuela temporarily closes border with Colombia

Venezuelan Vice President Rodriguez has announced the closure of the border with Colombia in western Tachira state, hours after Guaido defied a travel ban to attend an aid concert in the border town of Cucuta.

"Due to the serious and illegal threats attempted by the Government of Colombia against peace and sovereignty in Venezuela, (the Venezuelan government) has taken the decision of a total, temporary closure of all bridges that unite both countries in Tachira," she wrote on Twitter.

UN chief appeals for violence to be avoided

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres "strongly appeals" for violence to be avoided in Venezuela, a UN spokesman said on Friday, after Venezuelan soldiers shot two people dead on the border. 

"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."

Meanwhile, Maduro held a three-day festival themed “Hands Off Venezuela”, a campaign against US meddling in the country. 

Maduro claims the 'relief' effort led by Guaido is a US-orchestrated plot to oust him from power, and take over Venezuela which has the world's largest proven oil reserves in the world.

Friday, February 22 

Heightened tensions in Venezuela left one woman dead and a dozen injured near the border with Brazil on Friday, marking the first deadly clash related to the opposition’s plan to deliver humanitarian aid that Maduro has vowed not to accept. 

Emilio Gonzalez, mayor of the Venezuela border town of Gran Sabana, identified the woman killed by a gunshot as Zoraida Rodriguez, a member of an indigenous community. 

He said members of the Pemon ethnic group clashed with the Venezuela National Guard and army, who were moving tanks to the border w ith Brazil a day after Maduro ordered the crossing closed.

Russia says US aid a ‘pretext for military action’

Russia on Friday accused the United States of using aid deliveries to Venezuela as a ploy to carry out military action against Maduro’s government.

Accusing Washington of a “dangerous provocation”, foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said Guaido’s efforts to pick up US aid being stockpiled on the Colombian border were “a convenient pretext for conducting military action”.

Thursday, February 21 

Maduro said Venezuela would shut its border with Brazil on Thursday “until further notice” amid a tense standoff with Guaido over allowing in humanitarian aid. 

Maduro said the land border with Brazil would be “completely and absolutely” closed from 8:00 pm (0000 GMT) “until further notice,” following a meeting with the military high command.

He said on state television that he was also considering a closure of the country’s border with Colombia

Guaido heads to Colombia border

Guaido made plans to head for the border with Colombia to personally bring in US-supplied food and medicine in defiance of the military-backed government, raising fears of possible weekend confrontations. 

Guaido, who has set a Saturday deadline for bringing in the aid, planned to depart at 6am local time on Thursday in a caravan of buses with members of the opposition-controlled National Assembly, forcing a high-stakes showdown with President Maduro.

Venezuela's deputy UN military attache backs Guaido

Venezuela's deputy UN military attache, Colonel Pedro Chirinos, said in a video on social media that he recognised Guaido as the country's interim president, increasing pressure on Maduro.

Trump's National Security Adviser John Bolton highlighted Chirinos' announcement in a note posted on Twitter on Wednesday but misidentified him as the military attache to the United Nations.

Wednesday, February 20

Opposition ambassador takes control of Costa Rica embassy

Guiado's designated ambassador to Costa Rica took control of Venezuela's embassy in the Central American country.

On February 15, the Costa Rican government gave Maduro's representatives 60 days to leave the country.

"We have come to the embassy to move forward with the transition process," Guiado's representative in Costa Rica Maria Faria's office said in a statement.

The office said Faria was working with a team of auditors and legal advisers to ensure an orderly transition. It was not immediately clear how her team obtained access to the embassy.

Despite recognising Faria as Venezuela's legitimate ambassador, the Costa Rican foreign ministry criticised her for taking possession of the embassy before the deadline, saying it would send a diplomatic note.

Venezuela's foreign minister Arreaza, also criticised the move.

'Leave the kids alone'

Pink Floyd singer Roger Waters hit out at Richard Branson over his humanitarian aid concert for Venezuelans suffering from shortages of food and medicines.

Branson's fundraising concert in Colombia on Friday will feature stars such as former Genesis singer Peter Gabriel to raise "$100 million" for "those millions that need it the most."

But Waters said Branson had been fooled by a US "shtick."

"It has nothing to do with the needs of the Venezuelan people, it has nothing to do with democracy, it has nothing to do with freedom, and it has nothing to do with aid," said the British singer-songwriter in a Twitter video that was shown on Venezuelan state television.

"Do we really want Venezuela to be turned into another Iraq, Syria or Libya? I don't, and neither do the Venezuelan people," said Waters.

Closure of air and sea borders

Venezuela has reportedly ordered the closure of its air and sea border with Curacao, a military commander said Tuesday, as the island planned to host a US aid shipment for Venezuela.

Meanwhile, a spokesman for Guaido, says Brazil will deliver humanitarian aid to the Venezuelan border by February 23 together with the US at Guaido's request.

The spokesman said in a news conference that Guaido will organise distribution of aid from the northern Brazilian city of Boa Vista across the border in trucks driven by Venezuelan citizens.

Tuesday, February 19

Cuba denies control over Venezuelan forces

Cuba denied it has security forces in Venezuela and charged the statements were part of an orchestrated campaign of lies paving the way for military intervention in the South American country.

Trump and members of the administration have charged that Cuba’s security forces and military control Venezuela’s and that troops are also on the ground there.

“Our government categorically and energetically rejects this slander,” Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez said at a Havana press conference, adding all of the some 20,000 Cubans in Venezuela were civilians, most health professionals.

Rodriguez called on the US administration to produce proof.

"There is a big political and communications campaign underway which are usually the prelude to larger actions by this government," Rodriguez said.

Communist-run Cuba has been a key backer of the Venezuelan government since the Bolivarian Revolution that began under former leader Hugo Chavez in 1998.

'Military on alert'

Venezuela’s powerful armed forces said on Tuesday they were on “alert” for any border violations following threats by US Trump that they could “lose everything” if they don’t switch sides and back Guaido. 

Defence Minister Vladimir Padrino reiterated the military’s “unrestricted obedience, subordination and loyalty” to Maduro, whose authority has been challenged by self-declared acting president Guaido.

Maduro says Trump's speech 'Nazi-style'

Maduro rejected Trump's call for a new day in Venezuela and comparing the tone of the American president's speech in Miami to that of a Nazi.

Maduro responded to Trump in comments broadcast on state television. He accused the US president of speaking in an "almost Nazi style" and lashed out at Trump for thinking he can deliver orders to Venezuela's military.

Maduro said, "Who is the commander of the armed forces, Donald Trump from Miami?" and added, "They think they're the owners of the country."

Monday, February 18

Trump says military risking lives and future

Trump urged Venezuela's military to accept Guaido's amnesty offer, or stand to "lose everything."

"Today, I have a message for every official who is helping to keep [President Nicolas] Maduro in place. The eyes of the entire world are upon you today, every day and every day in the future," Trump told supporters in Miami.

"You cannot hide from the choice that now confronts you. You can choose to accept (self-declared acting) president Guaido's generous offer of amnesty to live your life in peace with your families and your countrymen.

"Or you can choose the second path: continuing to support Maduro. If you choose this path, you will find no safe harbour, no easy exit and no way out. You will lose everything."

Maduro government announces border concert

Venezuela's government has announced it will host a two-day concert near the border between Colombia and Venezuela on the day the opposition is preparing to distribute humanitarian aid.

Venezuela's Information Minister Jorge Rodriguez on Monday said the concert is scheduled to for February 22 and February 23.

"We had to dedicate two days for the realisation of the immense concert," the minister said.

The concerts will be held at the Simon Bolivar international bridge, on the border of Venezuela with Colombia.

The concert is meant to rival another concert that's being thrown by billionaire Richard Branson.

Branson has said he hopes the concert he's throwing to rally humanitarian aid for Venezuela will help draw global attention and save lives by raising funds for "much-needed medical help" for the crisis-torn country.

Sunday, February 17

Marco Rubio warns Venezuelan soldiers to let aid enter

Senator Marco Rubio visited a border staging point for US aid to Venezuela on Sunday and warned soldiers loyal to Maduro that it will be a "crime against humanity" if they block entry of the goods that are being channelled through Maduro's rivals.

An enthusiastic throng of Venezuelan migrants, some chanting "Rubio! Liberty," met the Florida Republican as he visited the Colombian city of Cucuta and held a news conference in sight of a border bridge that has been flooded in recent months by people fleeing the hardships of Venezuela's hyperinflation and severe shortages of food and medicine.

Venezuela denies EU lawmakers entry 

Venezuela's government blocked five European lawmakers from entering the country, triggering an angry response by opposition leader Guaido who had invited the delegation.

"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 European Parliament (MEP) Esteban Gonzalez Pons, who led the group.

The other lawmakers 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).

Guaido calls for 'million volunteers' in aid standoff

Venezuela's Guaido set a goal 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.

Guaido has given February 23 –– one month to the day after he proclaimed himself acting president –– as the date for a showdown over the aid with the government of Maduro.

Food supplies, hygiene kits and nutritional supplements have been stockpiled near the Venezuelan border in Cucuta, Colombia.

"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.

"Venezuela is preparing for the humanitarian avalanche," Guaido said.

Saturday, February 16 

Aid touches down at border amid distribution uncertainty

A US military transport plane carrying humanitarian aid meant for Venezuelans landed 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, since opposition leader Guaido declared himself interim president in defiance of Maduro.

Guaido, who invoked constitutional provisions to declare himself the country's leader last month, arguing Maduro's 2018 re-election was a sham, has said aid will enter Venezuela on February 23.

Guaido calls for countrywide stir 

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.

Friday, February 15

Maduro blasts US for 'stealing' billions and offering 'crumbs'

Venezuela president hit out at the United States on Friday for "stealing" billions of dollars and offering "crumbs" in return as humanitarian aid.

Tons of US aid is piling up in Colombia close to the border with Venezuela as opposition leader Guaido has vowed to defy Maduro's efforts to block the supplies from entering the country.

"It's a booby trap, they're putting on a show with rotten and contaminated food," said Maduro, speaking at an event in the southeastern town of Ciudad Bolivar.

"They've stolen $30 billion and are offering four crumbs of rotten food," added the beleaguered socialist leader, referring to the United States.

US military aircraft to deliver more aid to Venezuela border

The Trump administration is sending another large shipment of humanitarian aid to the Venezuelan border in Colombia, for the first time using US military aircraft, according to a State Department email sent to Congress.

The 250 tons of food supplies, hygiene kits and nutritional supplements will begin arriving on Saturday to the border city of Cucuta, where tons of boxes of emergency aid stamped with the US flag are already warehoused awaiting delivery into Venezuela.

Meanwhile, US National Security Advisor Bolton says many in Maduro's inner circle have now begun to waiver.

US sanctions Maduro aides 

The US Treasury announced on Friday that it was imposing sanctions on five intelligence and security officials close to Maduro.

“Treasury continues to target officials who have helped the illegitimate Maduro regime repress the Venezuelan people,” a Treasury statement read. 

Those targeted include Rafael Enrique Bastardo Mendoza, Manuel RicardoCristopher Figuera, Ivan Rafael Hernandez Dala, Manuel Salvador Quevedo Fernandez and Hildemaro Jose Rodriguez Mucura. Quevedo Fernandez is Venezuela’s oil minister.

Thursday, February 14

$100 million pledged in aid

Twenty-five countries have pledged $100 million in aid to Venezuela, a top US official said, as the crisis-hit country's Supreme Court took aim at oil executives appointed by the opposition.

"Today, 25 countries, united at the OAS-hosted Conference on Humanitarian Assistance in Support of Venezuela pledged $100 million in humanitarian assistance," Bolton tweeted.

According to David Smolanksy, coordinator of an OAS working group on migration and refugees from Venezuela, the money will go directly to aid collection centres set up on the borders with Colombia and Brazil and on the Caribbean island of Curazao.

Maduro invites Trump envoy to come to Venezuela

Maduro is inviting a US special envoy to come to Venezuela after revealing in an AP interview that his foreign minister recently held secret meetings with the US official in New York.

The second of two meetings took place four days after the envoy, Elliott Abrams, said the time for dialogue with Maduro's government had long passed.

Even while criticising Donald Trump's confrontational stance toward his socialist government, Maduro said he holds out hope of meeting the US president to resolve an impasse over his recognition of opponent Guaido as Venezuela's rightful leader.

Maduro said he won't give up power and called the US humanitarian aid currently sitting on the border with Colombia mere "crumbs" after the US administration froze billions of dollars in Venezuela's assets.

Maduro said all Venezuela needs to rebound is for Trump to remove his "infected hand" from the country that sits atop the world's largest petroleum reserves

Venezuelan FM defends government

Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza 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.

In the next few days, Arreaza said the group "will begin a series of actions to raise awareness around the dangers that our peoples currently face," particularly in Venezuela.

He refused to disclose the actions being contemplated.

Arreaza also said all people "have the right to live without the threat of use of force and without the application of illegal, coercive, unilateral measures," referring to US sanctions.

Arreaza defended his country's president and vowed to counter actions against it in the UN.

"In Venezuela there's only government - the government of President Maduro - so no one can give deadlines, especially this man," Arreaza told reporters at the UN.

Wednesday, February 13

Trump to give speech on Venezuela

US President Trump will give a speech on Venezuela in Miami on Monday and voice support for Guaido, whom the United States considers the South American country's legitimate president, a White House official said on Wednesday.

Trump, who plans to spend this weekend at his Mar-a-Lago retreat in Palm Beach, Florida, is to make remarks on Venezuela and "the dangers of socialism" at Florida International University in Miami, the official said.

Maduro slams Trump-Duque meeting

Maduro is calling a meeting between Trump and Colombian leader Ivan Duque a "feast of hate against Venezuela."

Trump and Duque met Wednesday in the Oval Office and said many countries want to help crisis-ridden Venezuela. Trump also said Maduro's refusal to accept humanitarian aid is a "terrible mistake" and hinted at future action by the US and its allies against Venezuela's socialist leader.

Maduro has blocked humanitarian aid from the US and other countries, saying it is part of an effort to oust him.

Congress prepares for PDVSA transition

Guaido says the Venezuelan congress appointed executives to a transitional board for its PDVSA state-owned oil company and its US subsidiaries, including Houston-based refiner Citgo.

Controlling the industry that is the backbone of the Venezuelan economy is key to the transitional government aspirations of Guaido.

But the country's refining capacity has partly declined because of poor maintenance and lack of skilled staff. That has left it reliant on Citgo to refine the oil and send gasoline back to Venezuela to meet domestic needs. 

The Netherlands to set up aid hub

The Netherlands says it will set up a humanitarian aid hub for crisis-torn Venezuela on its Caribbean island of Curacao.

Dutch Foreign Affairs Minister Stef Blok said on Twitter Wednesday that the collection point will be launched in "close cooperation with Venezuelan interim-president Guaido and the United States."

Details weren't released.

Curacao is about 90 kilometres (55 miles) off the Venezuelan coast.

'Military intervention not an option'

Congress will not support US military intervention in Venezuela despite comments hinting at such involvement by Trump, the Democratic chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee said on Wednesday. 

“I do worry about the president’s sabre-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 a hearing on the volatile political situation in the OPEC nation.

Report of talks with Venezuela opposition "fake news" - China

China said a newspaper report that Chinese diplomats had held talks with Venezuela's political opposition to protect its investments in the Latin American country was "fake news".

The Wall Street Journal said the diplomats, concerned about oil projects in Venezuela and almost $20 billion that Caracas owes Beijing, had held talks in Washington with representatives of Guaido.

"In fact the report is false. It's fake news," Hua C hunying, spokeswoman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, told reporters when asked about the article.

Tuesday, February 12

US, Russia draft rival UN Venezuela resolutions

The United States and Russia have drafted rival UN resolutions on Venezuela, reflecting the Trump administration's support for Guaido and Moscow's backing for Maduro.

The US draft resolution, seen by AP , expresses "deep concern that the presidential elections of May 20, 2018 were neither free nor fair" and "calls for the immediate start of a political process leading to free, fair and credible presidential elections, with international electoral observation."

The Russian draft criticises "attempts to intervene" in Venezuelan domestic affairs, expresses "concern over the threats to use force" against the country, and calls for a peaceful resolution of the stalemate.

Neither draft resolution has been circulated to the UN Security Council. If they are, it is highly likely that both would be defeated — with the US and Russia using their vetoes if necessary.

Russia ready to help promote dialogue - TASS

Russia stands ready to facilitate the start of dialogue between Venezuela's government and opposition, TASS news agency quoted Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov as saying.

Ryabkov also said Russia had made some proposals "to Venezuela" on settling the crisis in the country.

Also on Tuesday, Lavrov told Pompeo in a phone call that Moscow is ready for consultations on Venezuela, and warned against US interference into Venezuela's internal affairs, a statement said.

Rival rallies in Venezuela 

Guaido said that humanitarian aid will enter Venezuela on February 23, to bring relief to people struggling with widespread shortages of food and medicine.

Meanwhile, tens of thousands of opposition activists flooded the streets of Venezuela to demand the military allow in desperately-needed aid, as Maduro's supporters rallied against "imperialist intervention."

Guaido called the Youth Day demonstrations to honour people killed in anti-government rallies and press for the food and medicine to be brought into the economically-ravaged South American country.

Maduro meanwhile called a march of young leftists in the centre of Caracas denouncing foreign intervention in Venezuela's affairs and collecting signatures of people who reject Trump.

Venezuela for non-dollar trading bloc amid sanctions

Venezuela hopes to create a trade bloc consisting of China, India and Russia to help the South American country settle oil payments in currencies other than the dollar, its oil minister said.

The strife-torn country is looking for alternative payment methods to keep oil flowing to India, a crucial export market, especially after the United States imposed sanctions curbing the OPEC member's crude exports to the United States.

"We all can build one economy and that economy does not necessarily have to be within the dollar economy," Manuel Quevedu said, referring to China, Russia and India.

Quevedu, who on Monday said Caracas was open to barter trade with New Delhi, declined to disclose details on how he planned to do business with India.

"We are certainly not going to inform (regarding how we plan to do business) those who want to destroy our oil industry," he said on the sidelines of India's biennial Petrotech Conference.

Guaido says working to restore ties with Israel

Guaido said he was working to restore ties with Israel that Caracas cut off a decade ago in solidarity with the Palestinians.

Israel is among US-aligned powers that rallied to Guaido after he declared himself Venezuela's leader last month in a power struggle with Maduro, under whom the country has sunk into poverty.

"I am very happy to report that the process of stabilising relations with Israel is at its height," Guaido told the mass-circulation Israel Hayom daily in an interview.

A formal announcement on re-establishing ties and opening a new Venezuelan embassy in Israel would come "at the proper time".

Lavrov, Pompeo to discuss political turmoil

Lavrov and Pompeo will discuss the situation in Venezuela by phone, Lavrov said.

Russia and the United States have backed opposing sides in the political turmoil in Venezuela. Washington has recognised Guaido as interim president, while Moscow continues to back Maduro, a staunch ally.

Protesters to ask Maduro to let aid in

Venezuela's opposition supporters will take to the streets nationwide on Tuesday to keep up the heat on embattled Maduro and to call on him to let humanitarian aid into the country where food and medicine shortages are rife.

"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 told his 1.25 million Twitter followers late on Monday. 

"This is a time to unite and fight!"

Monday, February 11

Opposition delivers humanitarian aid - Guaido

Guaido said his team had delivered a first cargo of the humanitarian aid that has become a flashpoint in his tussle with Maduro, without specifying how it had received it.

Guaido, tweeted a photo of himself surrounded by stacks of white pots of vitamin and nutritional supplements. He did not say from where or whom they came.

"Today we delivered the first donation, or the first cargo of humanitarian aid, albeit on a small scale, because you know they have blocked the border for the time being," he said in televised remarks in Caracas.

Brazil to open aid storage centre – Guaido envoy

Venezuelan opposition envoy 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.

Belandria, a lawyer and international law expert, was appointed Venezuelan ambassador to Brazil by Guaido, who has been recognised by dozens of countries as the head of Venezuela's legitimate government instead of Maduro.

The envoy does not have access to the Venezuelan embassy facilities in Brasilia.

Venezuela hasn't asked for military assistance – Russian diplomat

A senior Russian diplomat said Venezuela hasn't asked Russia for military assistance amid the South American country's political crisis.

Alexander Shchetinin, the head of the Russian Foreign Ministry's Latin America department, said that Moscow hasn't received any such request from Caracas, according to Russian news reports.

Asked to compare the situation in Venezuela to Syria, where Russia has waged a military campaign to shore up Bashar al Assad's regime, Shchetinin said "there is a big difference" between Syria and Venezuela but wouldn't elaborate.

The Russian diplomat strongly warned the US against making calls on the Venezuelan military to drop support for Maduro, saying it represented an "unthinkable meddling into foreign affairs of a sovereign nation."

Sunday, February 10

Military official drops allegiance to Maduro

An active-duty Venezuelan army colonel who is a military doctor has dropped his allegiance to Maduro, backing opposition leader Guaido instead.

Colonel Ruben Paz Jimenez urged his fellow soldiers to help allow humanitarian aid into Venezuela. The shipment of US aid is currently in Cucuta, Colombia, on the border.

Maduro has vowed to prevent the aid from entering, labelling it a precursor of a US invasion.

A week ago, Air Force General Francisco Yanez also dropped his allegiance to Maduro. 

Saturday, February 9

US seeks UN draft resolution calling for Venezuela elections

The United States has shared with its UN Security Council allies a draft resolution calling for international aid to be delivered in Venezuela and for a presidential vote to take place.

While no date has yet been set for a vote on the American draft, and negotiations are ongoing, Russia is likely to use its veto power to block it as part of its support of Maduro's government, diplomats said.

The text, a copy of which was obtained by AFP on Saturday, expresses "full support for the National Assembly as the only democratically elected institution in Venezuela."

Friday, February 8

Maduro vows to block 'fake' aid 'spectacle'

Maduro vowed not to let in "fake" humanitarian aid from the United States requested by Guaido, which is being stockpiled at the border with Colombia.

"Venezuela won't allow the spectacle of fake humanitarian aid because we're no-one's beggars," Maduro said at a press conference.

Maduro also rejected what he called the "partisan and ideological nature" of the statement of the EU-backed International Contact Group on Venezuela although he said he remained open to dialogue.

Thursday, February 7

US aid for Venezuela arrives at Colombian border

Trucks carrying US aid for Venezuela arrived at its border with Colombia.

Several vehicles loaded with food and medicines rumbled into a collection centre on the Colombian side of the Tienditas border bridge, which remains blocked by Venezuelan troops.

Calling the aid delivery a 'cheap and bad show,' Maduro continues to refuse all humanitarian aid shipments.  

The 56-year-old has repeatedly accused the United States of fomenting a coup, and says the aid would open the way to allow a US military invasion.

US criticises dialogue attempts, revokes Venezuela visas

The United States said it was revoking visas of Venezuelan lawmakers seated by Maduro as it criticised European and Latin American countries for seeking dialogue with the embattled leader.

Elliot Adams, the US envoy to Venezuela, criticised the Contact Group and urged all countries to shut out Maduro and deal "solely" with Guaido.

Countries call on Maduro to hold free elections

In the Uruguay capital, at the first international forum to deal with the crisis, ministers from more than a dozen European and Latin American countries called on Maduro to hold "free" presidential elections.

The International Contact Group meeting in Montevideo said it was committed to finding a "peaceful, democratic" way out of the power struggle between Maduro and Guaido "without the use of force."

Following five hours of talks, the group announced it would send a technical mission to Venezuela to "establish the necessary guarantees for a credible electoral process, as soon as possible," and to allow in humanitarian aid.

Dozens of pro-Maduro supporters protested outside the meeting against US intervention in the country.

Russia says blocked from Venezuela talks in Uruguay

Russia said it had "counted on" being invited to an international dialogue in Montevideo on Venezuela's political crisis, but was told it could not participate.

European and Latin American envoys were set to gather in the Uruguayan capital on Thursday for the first meeting of a "Contact Group" with the goal of creating conditions for a peaceful political process.

"We were counting on Russia having possibility to get involved in the work that will take place in Montevideo today, at least as an observer state," deputy foreign minister Sergei Ryabkov told the RIA Novosti news agency. 

Wednesday, February 6

UN warns against politicising aid

The United Nations warned against using aid as a pawn in Venezuela after the United States sent food and medicine to the country's border and accused Maduro of blocking its delivery with trucks and shipping containers.

"Humanitarian action needs to be independent of political, military or other objectives," UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters in New York.

"When we see the present stand-off it becomes even more clear that serious political negotiations between the parties are necessary to find a solution leading to lasting peace for the people of Venezuela," he said.

Pompeo says Maduro must let in US aid

Pompeo demanded that Venezuela's military let in US-backed humanitarian aid, which Maduro has alleged is a pretext to invasion.

"The Venezuelan people desperately need humanitarian aid. The US and other countries are trying to help, but Venezuela's military under Maduro's orders is blocking aid with trucks and shipping tankers," Pompeo tweeted.

"The Maduro regime must LET THE AID REACH THE STARVING PEOPLE," Pompeo tweeted, using capital letters for emphasis.

Guaido wants to send delegation to Italy

Guaido wants to send a delegation to Italy, where the government is one of few European Union countries not to have backed the self-proclaimed interim president.

Guaido sent a letter requesting to send a delegation to Rome "as soon as possible" to present "the action plan to relaunch democracy in Venezuela through free and fair elections", Italy's Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini said.

Britain, France, Germany and Spain are among 20 EU nations to side with Guaido this week after Maduro ignored their demands that he announce new presidential elections by February 3.

But an attempt to muscle up the bloc's common position was vetoed by Italy, with the coalition government in Rome divided over how to handle the Venezuela crisis.

Cache of US weapons and ammunition recovered

A large number of weapons and ammunition sent from Miami, USA, were seized at a warehouse in Arturo Michelena International Airport in Valencia, according to a statement issued by Venezuelan Public Security Ministry's on Twitter.

Deputy Minister of Public Security Endes Palencia also shared photographs of captured weapons and ammunition on his Twitter account and announced that 19 US-made rifles, 118 magazines, scopes and high-caliber ammunition were recovered in the warehouse on February 3. 

He added that 90 communication devices and six mobile phones were also recovered.

Tuesday, February 5

Military blocks humanitarian aid shipment

Venezuelan military officers blocked a bridge on the border with Colombia ahead of an anticipated humanitarian aid shipment being coordinated by Guaido.

The opposition-dominated National Assembly had earlier warned the armed forces, which make up much of Maduro's power base, not to cross a "red line" by blocking aid.

Maduro says the humanitarian aid would be the forerunner of a US-led invasion, insisting that "nothing will enter, not one invading soldier."

Venezuelan military officers used a tanker truck and huge shipping container to block access to the Tienditas bridge, which links Cucuta, Colombia to Urena, Venezuela.

Franklyn Duarte, an opposition lawmaker from the border state of Tachira, told AFP that troops from the armed forces were blocking the crossing.

Argentinians protest US intervention in Venezuela

Hundreds of Argentinians held a demonstration in the capital Buenos Aires against US intervention in Venezuela.

Non-governmental organisations, trade unions and student clubs gathered at the University of Buenos Aires and marched to the US embassy.

The crowd chanted slogans such as "End US pressure on Latin America!” and “Establish dialogue and peace in Venezuela!”

The demonstrators said peace will only be achieved through dialogue, not by a military coup.

Vatican open to mediating if 'both sides ask' – Pope

Pope Francis said that the Vatican would be willing to mediate in Venezuela if both sides asked, but preliminary steps to try to bring them closer together should be taken first.

Francis, speaking to reporters aboard his plane returning from a trip to Abu Dhabi, also confirmed that Maduro had written a letter to him but that he had not yet read it.

Maduro told Italian broadcaster Sky TG24 on Monday that he had sent the letter to the pope "for help in the process of facilitating and reinforcing dialogue".

Asked about a possible direct mediation effort by the Vatican, the pope said: "I will read the letter and see what can be done but the initial condition is that both sides ask for it. We are willing."

Erdogan accuses EU of seeking Maduro's ouster in defiance of 'democracy'

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday accused the European Union of seeking to overthrow embattled Venezuelan leader Maduro in defiance of "democracy."

"On one side you will say 'democracy, democracy, democracy' and 'ballot box, ballot box, ballot box' and later you will dare to topple the government by violence and ruse," Erdogan told his ruling party lawmakers in parliament, referring to the European Union.

"We don't accept a world where the powerful is right, we only accept a world order when the right is powerful."

Monday, February 4

Lima Group urges Venezuela troops to let aid in

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, which is made up of nearly a dozen conservative Latin American nations and Canada. It has led the push to recognise opposition lawmaker Guaido as Venezuela's rightful leader and seeks ways to remove Maduro.

Maduro earlier warned of civil war amid the political crisis in the country, a claim that Guaido later dismissed.

Maduro vows to defend Venezuela with his life

Maduro announced a national petition drive for peace, saying "I will defend this threatened country with my life."

Maduro made the remarks to mark National Dignity Day, the anniversary of a failed 1992 coup against late President Hugo Chavez, his predecessor.

The signatures will be taken to the White House "in rejection of intervention," said the president.

Commenting on his Spanish counterpart's decision to recognise Guaido as interim president, Maduro said if a coup were to happen, Pedro Sanchez's hands "will be covered with blood."

Guaido to host international conference

In the meantime, the interim government challenging Maduro says it will hold an international conference to seek emergency humanitarian assistance at the headquarters of the Organization of American States in Washington.

Carlos Vecchio was recently designated as ambassador to Washington by the Guaido's self-proclaimed interim government and he says that governments, private sector and civil society representatives will attend the Feb. 14 conference

Maduro trying to move public funds – Guaido

Guaido said the government of Maduro was trying to move up to $1.2 billion 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."

'We are not beggars' – Maduro on aid

Maduro accused the US of preparing a coup in the South American country and rejected a US-backed effort to send emergency food and medicine into his country. 

"We are not beggars," Maduro said on Venezuelan state TV on Monday. 

Critics of Maduro blame the Venezuelan government's mismanagement for the lack of food and medical supplies in the country. 

UN will not join any group on talks – Guterres

The United Nations will not join any group of nations seeking to resolve the crisis in Venezuela, the UN chief Antonio Guterres said, rejecting an invitation to attend a meeting in Uruguay this week of neutral countries.

"The UN secretariat has decided not to be part of any of these groups 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 told reporters.

Maduro government rejects EU's pro-Guaido move

Venezuela government expressed its "energetic rejection" to some EU states' decision to recognise Guaido as "interim president", a statement said.

It said Caracas will revise bilateral relations with these governments. Meanwhile, Canada's PM Justin Trudeau announced $53 million in aid to Venezuelans.

Italy blocks EU statement on Guaido 

Italy blocked a European Union statement saying that the bloc's member states would recognise Venezuela's National Assembly head Guaido as interim president.

Italy's opposition has prevented a unified EU stance.

Maduro writes Pope Francis for support

Maduro said in an Italian TV interview that he has written to Pope Francis asking for help in fostering dialogue.

Maduro said in the interview with Sky TG24 that he hopes the letter is in route or has reached the Vatican.

In the interview conducted at a military base, Maduro describes himself as being "in the service of Christ's cause and in this spirit" he has asked Francis to "facilitate and reinforce" dialogue with his "best effort, his willingness."

Maduro added he was hoping for a "positive response."

Moscow accuses EU of meddling 

Kremlin slammed the European 'interference' in Venezuela.

It said recognising Guaido as interim president amounted to foreign meddling and that Venezuelans, not foreign countries, should resolve their own domestic political issues.

EU countries acknowledge Guaido's interim presidency

The Netherlands and the United Kingdom are among 16 EU nations to recognise opposition leader Guaido as the interim president of Venezuela on Monday.

"Nicolas Maduro has not called presidential elections within 8-day limit we have set," British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said in a tweet.

France Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian had earlier said that "Guaido has the capacity and the legitimacy to organise an election."

The EU stated it "will acknowledge" Venezuela's National Assembly head Guaido as interim president, a draft statement said on Monday.

EU states have been sparring for days on how to address the situation of Venezuela. 

Sunday, February 3

Maduro rejects European ultimatum 

Maduro rejected an ultimatum by European countries to call snap elections.

Seven EU states had given Maduro a Sunday deadline to call presidential elections or they would recognise the 35-year-old National Assembly head Guaidoas the interim president.

"Why does the European Union have to tell a country in the world that has already had elections that it has to repeat its presidential elections, because they were not won by their right-wing allies," Maduro said in an interview with a Spanish television in Caracas.

Civil war a possibility - Maduro

In another interview cited by the BBC, Maduro said he cannot rule out the possibility of civil war as pressure mounts on him to stand down.

"Everything depends on the level of madness and aggressiveness of the northern empire (the US) and its Western allies," he said.

"Stop. Stop. Donald Trump! You are making mistakes that are going to stain your hands with blood and you are going to leave the presidency stained with blood," Maduro said.

"Let's respect each other, or is it that you are going to repeat a Vietnam in Latin America?"

Sending troops to Venezuela 'an option'

Trump said that sending the military to Venezuela was "an option" and that he had turned down Maduro's request for a meeting.

"Certainly, it's something that's on the - it's an option," Trump said in an interview with CBS.

Trump said Maduro requested a meeting months ago and he turned down the Venezuela leader.

"I've turned it down because we're very far along in the process," he said in excerpts from a CBS "Face the Nation" interview. "So, I think the process is playing out - very, very big tremendous protests."

Help Venezuela, but don't meddle - Russia

Russia's foreign ministry said that 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.

'Countries supporting Guaido fueling crisis'

Turkey's Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said the countries which were supporting Guaido should instead have worked for negotiations to resolve Venezuela's crisis.

"There is a problem in a country, there is a spark that can turn into a fire at any moment. In this case, they should have contributed to the solution of the problem through dialogue," Cavusoglu told reporters in Istanbul.

Cavusoglu said Turkey had tried to initiate talks on Venezuela last year between Washington and Latin American countries. "But today, none of the countries that have taken these steps against Venezuela has sought dialogue."

Saturday, February 2

Maduro proposes earlier elections for national assembly

Maduro proposed on Saturday bringing forward parliamentary elections to this year.

Maduro, in a speech to supporters, said the all-powerful government-controlled Constituent Assembly would debate calling earlier elections for the National Assembly, which he denounced as "bourgeois."

The parliamentary elections had been scheduled for 2020.

General declares allegiance to Guaido in Twitter video

A high-ranking Venezuelan air force general said he had defected to Maduro and now recognized self-declared leader 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. The high command's web page lists him, along with a photo, as the air force's head of strategic planning.

On its Twitter account, the high command accused the general of treason. 

Yanez is the first active Venezuelan general to recognize Guaido since he proclaimed himself president on January 23.

Friday, February 1 

Military intervention in Venezuela by the United States is not imminent, Trump’s national security adviser said on Friday, but reiterated that all options remain on the table. 

Asked if US military intervention was imminent — or by Brazil or Colombia or a combination of all three nations — Bolton told the Hugh Hewitt radio show: “No.” 

“The president said all options are on the table. But our objective is a peaceful transfer of power,” he said.

Pence vows more pressure on Maduro

In a visit to the largest community of Venezuelan exiles in the United States - and flanked by four prominent Florida Republican politicians - US Vice President Mike Pence categorically rejected calls for talks with Maduro, and warned all options were on the table to force him to leave. 

“This is no time for dialogue. This is time for action,” Pence told a few hundred people at a rally in a local church, many of whom waved Venezuelan flags and shouted “Libertad!” 

“The time has come to end the Maduro dictatorship once and for all,” said Pence, who has emerged as one of the strongest voices against the Venezuelan leader in the administration of Trump.

Venezuela opposition leader rejects mediation offers

Guaido said on Friday he has turned down offers from the presidents of Mexico and Uruguay to negotiate with Maduro, a day before nationwide street protests called to escalate pressure on the leader to step down.

In a letter to both presidents, Guaido urged them to back Venezuela's struggle, saying to remain neutral aligns them with Maduro.

"At this historical moment that our country is going through, to be neutral is to be on the side of the regime that has condemned hundreds of thousands of human beings to misery, hunger and exile — including death," he said.

'Foreign intervention in Venezuela will deepen problem'

Any foreign intervention in Venezuela is "not right" and will deepen the problem, Turkey’s Foreign Minister Cavusoglu said on Friday.

"We are telling since the beginning. Such foreign interventions are not healthy and not right. They will not offer a solution. They will deepen the problem. God forbid, the country [Venezuela] even can be dragged into a civil war," Cavusoglu told reporters in Romania.

Cavusoglu said the countries should bring dialogue into the forefront instead of taking sides.

Thursday, January 31 

Plot to kill Maduro busted – officials 

Venezuelan officials on Thursday said security forces took down a "terrorist" group backed by political opponents plotting to assassinate Maduro.

Interior Minister Nestor Reverol said that retired National Guard Col Oswaldo Garcia Palomo was among those detained.

Palomo has been an outspoken critic of Maduro and for months has declared his intention to amass a military force in exile to topple him.

Reverol accuses Colombian intelligence, the CIA and exiled Venezuelan lawmaker Julio Borges of being behind the alleged mercenary group.

EU agrees to lead Venezuela crisis group

The EU announced the creation of an international contact group of European and Latin American countries to help chart a peaceful end to Venezuela's political crisis within 90 days.

EU diplomatic chief Federica Mogherini said the group would aim to "build trust and create conditions necessary for a credible process to emerge... enabling Venezuelans to determine their own future through the holding of new elections".

Guaido says security forces threatening his family

Guaido accused socialist leader Maduro's security forces of trying to intimidate his family.

Guaido said the security service FAES had gone to his house asking for his wife, Fabiana.

"The dictatorship thinks it will intimidate us," Guaido said during a speech at the main university in the capital Caracas.

The 35-year-old president of the National Assembly said he had a 20-month old daughter at home and would be holding FAES accountable for "whatever they do to my baby."

EU parliament recognises Guaido as interim president

The European Parliament recognised Venezuela's self-declared interim president Guaido as the de-facto head of state, a symbolic step that lawmakers said was designed to keep pressure on Maduro.

EU lawmakers voted in a non-binding resolution to recognise Guaido as interim leader and called on all EU governments to follow suit.

Release foreign journalists – EU's top diplomat

Venezuelan authorities must immediately release three detained foreign journalists and a driver, the European Union's top diplomat said on Thursday.

"There is a clear call from my side to release immediately your colleagues in Caracas," EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini told reporters in Bucharest after a meeting of EU defence ministers. 

"We firmly believe that all journalists should be able to exercise their duties, responsibilities and rights in their work," Mogherini said.

Opposition meets military

Venezuela’s opposition has had clandestine meetings with members of the country’s military and security forces, Venezuela’s self-proclaimed interim president, Guaido, said in an opinion piece published on Wednesday. 

“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 in an opinion piece published by the New York Times. “The military’s withdrawal of support from Mr. (President Nicolas) Maduro is crucial to enabling a change in government.”

Spain condemns media arrests in Venezuela

The Spanish government has condemned the detention of three reporters and a driver working for Spain's state-run EFE news agency in Venezuela's capital.

Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez's office issued a statement calling for their immediate release.

EFE has reported that Colombian photographer Leonardo Munoz disappeared on Wednesday morning in Caracas and that two more reporters, Spaniard Gonzalo Dominguez and Colombian Mauren Barriga, were later taken away from their office by members of Venezuelan intelligence service Sebin, according to EFE

Spain's government says a Venezuelan driver working for the news agency was also taken into custody.

He wasn't identified.

Wednesday, January 30

Mexico, Uruguay convene meeting of ‘neutral’ countries

Mexico and Uruguay on Wednesday 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 Guaido to be acting president in place of leader Maduro. 

The conference, announced on the website of the Uruguayan presidency, is due to take place in Montevideo on February 7.

Prevent 'Vietnam in Latin America' – Maduro 

Maduro pressed his case directly to the American people, asking for their help in preventing a "Vietnam in Latin America."

In a 45-second video released early Wednesday and shot 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.

He said the US is looking to get its hands on Venezuela's abundant oil reserves, replicating US military interventions in Iraq and Libya.

Maduro ready for talks

Maduro said calls to hold early presidential elections amounted to blackmail and that the countries calling for them must wait until 2025, Russia's RIA news agency reported on Wednesday.

Maduro said he was prepared to hold negotiations with the US-backed opposition and added he would support early parliamentary elections.

"I am ready to sit at the negotiation table with the opposition for us to talk for the benefit of Venezuela, for the sake of peace and its future," Maduro said in an interview with Russia’s state news agency RIA.

Maduro also said Russian President Vladimir Putin had promised him more economic and military support during phone talks last week.

Venezuela will meet its financial obligations to Moscow and Beijing, Maduro said. 

The comments came a day after Russia said Caracas could have problems servicing its debt to Moscow after Washington imposed sweeping sanctions on Venezuela's state oil company.

Guadio calls for protests

Guaido has called for walkouts and protests to be held across the country on Wednesday.

He urged Venezuelans to step outside their homes and workplaces for two hours beginning at noon in the first mass mobilisation since he declared himself the nation's rightful leader a week ago during another round of big protests.

Tuesday, January 29

Court imposes travel ban on Guaido  

The country's Supreme Tribunal of Justice barred self-declared president Guaido from leaving the country and froze his bank accounts.

The 35-year-old head of the National Assembly legislature "is prohibited from leaving the country until the end of the (preliminary) investigation" for having "caused harm to peace in the republic," high court president Maikel Moreno said.

The government-stacked high court announced the order just hours after chief prosecutor Tarek William Saab announced that he was opening a criminal investigation into Guaido's anti-government activities and requested that restrictions be placed on his movements abroad.
The court also approved Saab's request that all of Guaido's financial assets be frozen.

The move came after the US announced it was giving Guaido control of Venezuelan government's US bank accounts. 

White House warns against 'harm' to Guaido

Trump's national security advisor warned of "serious consequences" if any harm comes to Guaido.

"Let me reiterate – there will be serious consequences for those who attempt to subvert democracy and harm Guaido," Bolton tweeted.

Pence meets Guido 'envoy'

Pence met Guaido's designated envoy to the United States on Tuesday. Pence said they discussed recent sanctions actions, "highlighting that these deprive Maduro and his cronies access to corrupt income and ... preserve the country's wealth for the people of Venezuela."

The sanctions are also expected to hit daily life hard in Venezuela, where public spending is almost entirely funded by oil revenues. 

Attorney general seeks Guaido probe

Venezuela's attorney general asked the Supreme Court to bar Guaido, the self-proclaimed acting president and opposition leader, from leaving the country and to freeze his assets.

Tarek Saab said he had asked the court to open a preliminary investigation against Guaido, and to freeze the opposition leader's accounts.

Saab didn't specify what crimes Guaido is being investigated for. 

Defiant Maduro warns US: 'Hands off Venezuela'

A defiant Maduro warned Trump to keep his ''hands off Venezuela.''

''And we should tell Donald Trump, don't mess with Venezuela: ''Hands off Venezuela, Donald Trump, hands off Venezuela, de immediately !'' Maduro said in broken English.

In a defiant national broadcast, Maduro said he would take legal action to challenge the US sanctions and defend Citgo Petroleum Corp, PDVSA's US refining subsidiary. He also pledged to retaliate, but did not announce any specific measures.

US, Venezuela envoys trade jibes at UN

Senior US and Venezuelan diplomats traded jibes at a UN-sponsored Conference on Disarmament, a day after the Trump administration imposed sanctions on the state-owned oil firm PDVSA in its toughest financial challenge yet to embattled Maduro.

Venezuela's ambassador Jorge Valero said that the Trump administration was preparing a "military invasion" of his country and questioned whether Washington had the moral authority to "impose a diktat" on Caracas.

Plath walked out of the conference during his comments, then returned.

Guaido for amnesty to Maduro, army

Guaido said Maduro and the armed forces could be granted amnesty, in an interview with CNN.

He said the opposition can achieve a peaceful transition away from Maduro and eventually free elections, Guaido said.

He also said he had spoken to Trump a number of times and, when asked about possible military options in Venezuela, said all options were on the table.

Kremlin calls US sanctions illegal interference

The Kremlin said that US sanctions on Venezuela's state oil company amounted to illegal and open interference in the Latin American country's domestic affairs.

Moscow is assessing the impact on Russia of the sanctions and intends to use all legal mechanisms at its disposable to protect Russia's interests in Venezuela in light of the sanctions, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.

Lavrov was quoted as saying that the US sanctions imposed on Venezuela's state oil company are illegal and Russia will take all necessary steps to support the administration of Maduro. 

Lavrov said the sanctions amounted to an attempt by the United States to confiscate Venezuelan state assets, Russian news agencies quoted him as saying.

Deaths and arrests over the week

UN Human Rights spokesman says at least 40 people were killed in Venezuela during the past week.

The UN added that more than 850 people were detained in the country, including 696 on January 23, which is the highest number recorded for a single day in 20 year.

Monday, January 28

US sanctions Venezuelan state oil firm 

US government has announced sanctions on Venezuela's state-owned oil company, Petroleos de Venezuela SA, also known as PDVSA. 

"The United States is holding accountable those responsible for Venezuela's tragic decline, and will continue to use the full suite of its diplomatic and economic tools to support Interim Guaido, the National Assembly, and the Venezuelan people's efforts to restore their democracy," said Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. 

"Today's designation of PdVSA will help prevent further diverting of Venezuela's assets by Maduro and preserve these assets for the people of Venezuela." he said.

Guaido calls for fresh protests

Guaido on Monday called for new street demonstrations across the country as army marched in capital Caracas to show support for Maduro.

Guaido said opposition sympathisers should take to the streets of the crisis-hit OPEC nation on Wednesday to pass out copies of a pamphlet proposing amnesty that would give some legal protection to members of the military in hopes they will turn against Maduro.

Protests left 35 dead, 850 arrested – NGO

A week of protests against Maduro has left 35 people dead and 850 detained, a non-governmental organisation said.

"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 Program for Education-Action in Human Rights.

Pope afraid of 'bloodbath' 

Pope Francis said he feared bloodshed in Venezuela but that it was premature for him to take sides because it could cause more damage.

Pope said he was terrified the political crisis enveloping Venezuela would descend into a "bloodbath".

"What am I afraid of? A bloodbath," the first Latin American pontiff told journalists aboard a plane on his return trip from Panama, adding that "the problem of violence terrifies me".

Australia 'recognises' Guaido as new president

Australia "recognises and supports" Venezuela's National Assembly head Guaido as interim president until elections are held, Foreign Minister Marise Payne said on Monday, following similar endorsements from the US and Canada.

Payne also called for a "transition to democracy in Venezuela as soon as possible" in a statement.

New Zealand refuses to back Guaido

New Zealand's Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters said New Zealand will not give official recognition to either side.

"It is not New Zealand's practice to make statements of recognition of governments," Peters was cited as saying in a statement e-mailed by his press office.

"Venezuela needs to decide its future through free and fair elections. This government expressed concerns about Venezuela's elections in 2018, and these concerns remain."

Sunday, January 27

US threats Maduro over diplomats

Bolton warned on Sunday of a “significant response” if US diplomats or the opposition leader seeking the ouster of Maduro are threatened or intimidated. 

“Any violence and intimidation against US diplomatic personnel, Venezuela’s democratic leader, Juan Guaido, or the National Assembly itself would represent a grave assault on the rule of law and will be met with a significant response,” he posted on Twitter

The warning didn’t address specific groups or individuals, but Bolton noted in a linked tweet that Cuba’s “support and control over Maduro’s security and paramilitary forces” was well known.

Israel recognises Guaido

Israel on Sunday officially recognised Venezuela’s National Assembly chief Guaido as president, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, following close ally Washington in endorsing the opposition leader. 

Netanyahu announced in an online video that Israel was joining the United States, Canada and a host of South American countries “in recognising the new leadership in Venezuela”.

Maduro rejects EU ultimatum

Maduro rejected an ultimatum to call a national election within eight days, describing European countries as insolent for making it.

In an interview with Turkish broadcaster CNN Turk aired on Sunday and dubbed into Turkish from Spanish, Maduro also said opposition leader Guaido had violated the constitution by declaring himself leader. 

Maduro also said he was open to dialogue, and that a meeting with Trump, while improbable, was not impossible.

Saturday, January 26

UK, France, Germany and Spain said on Saturday they would give Maduro eight days to call elections in the south American country or they would recognise Guaido as interim leader in charge of calling an election. 

“The government of Spain gives Maduro eight days to call free, transparent and democratic elections. If that doesn’t happen, Spain will recognise Guaido as interim president in charge of calling these elections,” Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said in a statement.

Similar declarations were made by UK, Germany and France.

Friday, January 25

Controversial GOP veteran to 'restore democracy' 

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Friday tapped Elliot Abrams, a central figure in Ronald Reagan's controversial anti-communist campaigns in Central America, as a new envoy to "restore democracy" in Venezuela.

Pompeo announced the appointment of Abrams two days after Washington declared Maduro to be illegitimate and recognised Guaido as the interim president.

Pompeo said  Abrams will "help the Venezuelan people fully restore democracy and prosperity to their country."

Abrams under Reagan channelled generous US support to anti-communist forces in Nicaragua and El Salvador. He initially dismissed the massacre of nearly 1,000 civilians by the Salvadoran army at El Mozote in 1981.

He pleaded guilty to two misdemeanour counts during the Iran-Contra scandal.

Maduro ready to meet Guaido

Maduro said on Friday that he was ready to meet presidency rival Guaido.

But Maduro's offer for talks was promptly rejected by Guaido.

Addressing a news conference, he said that Venezuelan armed forces have promised to protect his legitimate government.

Guaido claims international support

Guaido, who has proclaimed himself interim president with US support, says there is a strong international support for his interim government.

Addressing a rally in Caracas, he said that Maduro has to leave, adding it would happen with international support.

UN rights boss calls for independent investigation into deaths

The United Nations human rights boss Michelle Bachelet calls for an independent investigation into alleged excessive use of force by Venezuelan security forces, citing reports of 20 people killed and more than 350 detained in protests this week.

"I am extremely concerned that the situation in Venezuela may rapidly spiral out of control with catastrophic consequences", Bachelet, a former president of Chile, said in a statement urging political leaders to hold talks to defuse the situation.

Thursday, January 24 

Military backs Maduro

Venezuela's powerful military threw its weight behind Maduro on Thursday as US-backed Guaido pressed a direct challenge to his authority, and the fate of the crisis-wracked country hung in the balance with the death toll from days of street protests jumping to 26.

Washington seeks to cut Maduro's revenue 

Trump's national security adviser Bolton said the White House is focused on disconnecting Maduro from his sources of revenue. 

"We think consistent with our recognition of Juan Guaido as the constitutional interim president of Venezuela that those revenues should go to the legitimate government. It’s very complicated," Bolton told reporters at the White House. 

Maduro hails support of Turkey, Russia and China

Venezuela’s president expressed his gratitude to Turkey, Russia and China on Thursday for their support after Guaido declared himself “interim president”.

"I thank Russia, China, Turkey and other governments and people of the world for their strong support of the legitimately established government of Venezuela," Maduro said in a Twitter post.

"Venezuela is not alone!" he added.

Guaido would consider granting Maduro amnesty

Guaido says he would consider granting amnesty to Maduro and his allies if they helped return Venezuela to democracy.

Guaido gave his first public comments to Univision on Thursday since declaring himself interim president of Venezuela. Guaido's comments are part of a soon-to-be aired interview that was published on Univision's website.

The National Assembly leader says that amnesty is on the table for anybody willing to help return Venezuela to constitutional order.

Germany backs National Assembly

The German government called for democratic new elections in Venezuela, saying it stood with the opposition-controlled National Assembly.

"With regard to #Venezuela, we are not neutral," German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said on Twitter. "We support the National Assembly, which is elected by the people. Maduro has no democratic legitimacy as President."

US orders non-essential staff out

The US ordered non-emergency embassy staff to leave Venezuela but stopped short of complying with a full expulsion ordered by Maduro, who Washington says is no longer president.

The state department in a notice said it had "ordered non-emergency US government employees to depart Venezuela."

"The US government has limited ability to provide emergency services to US citizens in Venezuela," it said.

US citizens should "strongly consider" leaving Venezuela, the state department, said.

Venezuela to shut US embassy

Venezuela will close its embassy and all consulates in the United States, Maduro said on Thursday, one day after he broke off diplomatic relations in response to US recognition of an opposition leader as interim president. 

In a speech, Maduro added that he agreed with a call by Mexico and Uruguay for dialogue between Venezuela’s government and the opposition for a resolution to the South American country’s political crisis.

Putin calls Maduro

Russian President Putin on Thursday called Maduro and expressed support, the Kremlin said.

“The President of Russia expressed support for the legitimate authorities of Venezuela in the context of a domestic political crisis that has been provoked from the outside,” it said.

Pompeo warns Maduro

Pompeo on Thursday warned Maduro against use of force on mass demonstrations as he urged further international support for the self-declared acting president.

“The time for debate is done. The regime of former president Nicolas Maduro is illegitimate,” Pompeo told the Organization for American States at a special meeting at its Washington headquarters.

His speech was interrupted by a pro-Maduro protester.

Trump comments on Venezuela are 'shocking' – Erdogan

Turkish President Erdogan said on Thursday that he believed the people of Venezuela would continue to support Maduro. 

Speaking at a joint news conference with his Maltese counterpart in Ankara, Erdogan said he found Trump’s comments on Venezuela shocking and added that democracies needed to respect election results.

Maduro is 'legitimate president'

Venezuelan Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino said on Thursday that Maduro was the country’s “legitimate president” and that the opposition was carrying out a coup. 

Padrino said the United States and other governments were carrying out an economic war against Venezuela, an OPEC nation with the world’s largest crude reserves.

Maduro must go – senior EU lawmaker  

Maduro must step down and allow the country's congress to lead the country back to democracy, one of the European Parliament's most senior lawmakers said on Thursday, taking a tougher stance than EU foreign ministers.

"President Maduro has lost any legitimacy to lead his country. He needs to step aside," David McAllister, a German conservative who chairs the parliament's foreign affairs committee, said in a statement.

Iran throws its support behind Maduro

"Iran opposes all foreign interference in Venezuela's domestic affairs," Bahram Qasemi, a spokesman for Iran's foreign ministry, said in a statement.

Qasemi voiced hope that Venezuela's internal political disputes might be resolved "by its people and government."

Opposition supporters take part in a rally against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro's government in Caracas, Venezuela. January 23, 2019.(Reuters)

Macron hails 'Venezuelans marching for liberty'

French President Emmanuel Macron said the May 2018 election of Maduro was “illegitimate” and saluted the bravery of Venezuelans who are demanding freedom.

In a tweet on Thursday in French and Spanish, Macron added his own voice to the European Union’s declared support for the restoration of democracy.

Macron said that he "salutes the courage of hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans marching for their liberty."

Spain backs Venezuela parliament, calls for free vote

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez told Guaido in a phone call on Thursday that he supported the legitimacy of the Venezuelan Parliament and called for free elections, in line with the European Union's position.

The Spanish leader acknowledged Guaido's "courage with which he has been handling the situation," a government spokesman said.

China opposes outside interference

China said it opposes outside interference in Venezuela and supports its efforts to protect its independence and stability.

Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying called for all sides to calmly and reasonably find a peaceful solution.

"China supports efforts made by the Venezuelan government to protect the country's sovereignty, independence and stability," Hua told a regular briefing in Beijing.

"... I want to emphasise that outside sanctions or interference usually make the situation more complicated and are not helpful to resolving the actual problems."

EU says protests 'cannot be ignored'

The European Union called for Venezuela authorities to respect the "civil rights, freedom and safety" of Guaido but stopped short of following Washington and recognising him as interim president.

"On 23 January, the people of Venezuela have massively called for democracy and the possibility to freely determine their own destiny. These voices cannot be ignored," the 28 countries of the bloc said in a joint statement.

"The Venezuelan people have the right to peacefully demonstrate, to freely choose its leaders and decide its future."

Russia warns US against military intervention

Russia 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.

Interfax cited Sergei Ryabkov, Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister, as saying Moscow would stand with Venezuela to protect its sovereignty and the principle of non-interference in its domestic affairs.

Avert 'disaster' – UN head appeals

UN chief Antonio Guterres appealed for dialogue in Venezuela to avoid the political crisis spiralling out of control, after Guaido declared himself "interim president."

"What we hope is that dialogue can be possible, and that we avoid an escalation that would lead to the kind of conflict that would be a disaster for the people of Venezuela and for the region," he said at the World Economic Forum in Davos.

"Sovereign governments have the possibility to decide whatever they want," the UN secretary-general said on a Facebook Live broadcast from Davos.

"What we are worried [about] with the situation in Venezuela is the suffering of the people of Venezuela," he said.

#WeareMADURO

Turkey's President Erdogan voiced solidarity with Maduro early on Thursday.

"We are with you," Erdogan told Maduro in a telephone call, Turkey's presidential aide Ibrahim Kalin shared on Twitter, ending his tweet with #WeareMADURO.

Russia slams 'western' interference' in Venezuela

The Russian foreign ministry criticised western interference in Venezuela's internal affairs, saying "The developments in Venezuela show very well how progressive western society really treats international law, sovereignty and non-interference in internal affairs of other states, by picking the government there [in Venezuela]."

Russian lawmaker Franz Klinzevich also warned Moscow could wind up its military cooperation with Venezuela if Maduro, whom he called the legitimately elected president, was ousted.

Wednesday, January 23

US calls for army intervention

A US state department statement called on Venezuela's army to act against Maduro's government 

Venezuela's Defence Minister Padrino hit back saying the armed forces did not recognise Guaido's authority. 

"The nation's soldiers don't accept a president imposed by obscure interests, nor one self-proclaimed outside of the law," said Padrino on Twitter.

Maduro lacks 'authority' to sever ties with US

United States rejected a move by Maduro to break diplomatic ties, saying it did not think he had the authority to cut ties and it would conduct relations with a government led by Guaido.

'Get out! Leave Venezuela'

Maduro announced he was breaking off diplomatic ties with the US after Trump recognised Guaido as the "interim president."

"I've decided to break diplomatic and political relations with the imperialist government of the US," Maduro told thousands of supporters in the capital Caracas.

"Get out! Leave Venezuela, here there's dignity, damn it," he said, giving the US delegation 72 hours to quit the country.

Pro and anti-Maduro recognitions

Most Latin American nations on Wednesday recognised the 35-year-old leader of Venezuela's opposition-dominated National Assembly as interim president as did the US and Canada.

Longstanding leftist allies Bolivia and Cuba were the only countries in the region to explicitly voice support for Maduro as Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Guatemala, Honduras, Panama, Paraguay and Peru backed Guaido.  

Mexico also said it backs Maduro's rule and it would not take sides, branding support for Guaido a violation of sovereignty.

Turkey also offered support in a phone call to Maduro.

Juan Guaido declares himself president 

Guaido, during a rally against Maduro's government in Caracas, declared himself interim president, calling for free elections to end Maduro's presidency.

Massive rallies

Hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans gathered in Caracas to hold rival protests. 

Tuesday, January 22

US trying to force a coup

Maduro accused Pence of forcing a coup in his country. 

"Never before has a high-level official said that the opposition should overthrow the government," Maduro said.

'Hola, I'm Mike Pence'

Pence issued a video message of support to Venezuelans opposing Maduro's rule. 

"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 said after offering a greeting of "hola," which means "hello" in Spanish.

"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 of power by imprisoning anyone who dares to oppose him."

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