The United Nations refugee agency urged nations not to deport or force Venezuelans, fleeing worsening political and economic crises, to go back as they deserve protection.

Venezuelan migrant children play soccer in a camp run by the UN refugee agency in Maicao, Colombia. May 7, 2019.
Venezuelan migrant children play soccer in a camp run by the UN refugee agency in Maicao, Colombia. May 7, 2019. (Reuters)

Tuesday, May 21

Venezuelans deserve refugee status - UN

Venezuelans fleeing the worsening crisis in their country deserve protection as refugees, the United Nations refugee agency said in updated guidance issued on Tuesday.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees also urged other states not to deport or force them back.

Some 3.7 million people have left Venezuela, the most since 2015, it said. 

"It is incredibly important that given the situation in Venezuela that there aren't deportations, expulsions or forced returns," UNHCR spokeswoman Liz Throssell told a news briefing

Monday, May 20

Maduro proposes early elections for National Assembly

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro on Monday proposed early elections for the National Assembly, which is run by the opposition.

The opposition won a majority in the National Assembly in 2015 and the next congressional elections are currently scheduled for late 2020. 

In a speech at a pro-government rally, Maduro said, "We will legitimise the sole institution which has not been legitimised in the last five years."

Friday, May 17

Norway talks sought 'peaceful agenda' with opposition – Maduro

Talks in Norway this week with representatives of Venezuela's government and the opposition sought to "build a peaceful agenda" for the crisis-stricken South American country, Maduro said on Friday.

Norway's foreign ministry, which has a tradition of conflict mediation, said earlier on Friday that the talks were in an "exploratory phase."

The representatives of each side arrived in the Nordic country this week, signalling a fresh approach to ending months of tensions that escalated after a failed uprising last month led by opposition leader Juan Guaido, who called on the military to oust Maduro.

The ruling socialist party, which has long said it is open to dialogue, has endorsed the talks. 

"Norway announces that it has had preliminary contacts with representatives of the main political actors of Venezuela, as part of an exploratory phase," the ministry said in a statement.

Thursday, May 16

US agents arrest protesters in Venezuelan Embassy

US law enforcement officers raided the Venezuelan Embassy on Thursday to oust a small group protesting US policy toward the oil-rich country, paving the way for the diplomatic compound to be handed to the US envoy of opposition leader Guaido.

Maduro condemned the raid and called the police action a shameful, criminal, brutal and illegal act. 

Guaido confirms efforts in Norway 

Venezuela's Guaido has confirmed efforts in Norway to mediate between the opposition and Maduro's government.

Guaido referred to the Norwegian initiative in remarks on Thursday, but said the opposition won't enter into any "false negotiation."

The Venezuelan opposition has said that Maduro used past negotiations to play for time and was not sincere about making concessions. Maduro said he is open to dialogue and that the opposition had been trying to seize power by force.

Guaido said any diplomatic process aimed at resolving the Venezuelan crisis must lead to the end of Maduro's government, its replacement by a transitional administration and free and fair elections.

UN backs Norway talks on Venezuela crisis

The United Nations said Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is "very much supportive" of the talks in Norway between Venezuela's government and opposition on ways of ending the South American country's crisis.

UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric was asked on Thursday at UN headquarters in New York about possible UN participation in the process.

He responded that he didn't "want to predict what can happen in what we know is a complicated situation, but what is clear is that the secretary-general's good offices, the United Nations' good offices, remain very much available."

It comes amid reports that the International Contact Group and the Lima Group, which both support opposition leader Guaido, may meet.

Canada, Cuba hold talks on Venezuela crisis

Canada's Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland has met Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez in Havana.

Freeland's office said the purpose of the visit is "to discuss the deteriorating situation" in Cuba's ally Venezuela, as well as tightened US sanctions on Cuba.

Meanwhile, Cuba's first vice minister of foreign relations was in Norway on Tuesday and Wednesday as part of what his office called a tour of Scandinavian countries.

US police arrest activists squatting in Venezuelan Embassy

A leader of the activists who have been staging a protest inside the Venezuelan Embassy in Washington for more than a month said four of them have been arrested.

Medea Benjamin, co-founder of Code Pink, told The Associated Press that police entered the embassy early Thursday morning to arrest the remaining activists. It was unclear whether they had been removed from the building.

The protesters consider Maduro to be the legitimate Venezuelan president but the US and more than 50 other countries are backing congressional leader Guaido's claim to the presidency.

The protest started with at least 30 activists staying at the embassy, but their numbers gradually dwindled.

Guaido's newly named ambassador had requested the help of US authorities in clearing the building.

Opposition, government leaders travel to Norway 

Officials in Venezuela said representatives of the government and opposition have travelled to Norway for talks on resolving the political crisis in the South American country.

Members of Venezuela's opposition-controlled congress said on Wednesday that senior members of both sides will be involved in the discussions in Oslo.

The National Assembly members spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the talks, which they described as exploratory.

Tuesday, May 14

More lawmakers accused of treason 

Venezuela's top court accused four opposition lawmakers of treason, following similar accusations against 10 legislators this month, escalating a deep political crisis in the South American country.

Security forces had earlier prevented lawmakers from entering the legislature for Tuesday's session, saying they were investigating the possible presence of an explosive device inside the building.

The Supreme Court in a statement posted on its Facebook page accused lawmakers Carlos Paparoni, Miguel Pizarro, Franco Casella and Winston Flores of treason and inciting rebellion. The accusations marked the latest step in a crackdown by President Maduro on allies of opposition leader Guaido following a failed effort to spur a military 'coup' in April.

Activists at Venezuela Embassy served with eviction notice

US authorities served an eviction notice Monday to activists who have stayed for more than a month inside the Venezuelan Embassy in Washington and asked them to leave immediately.

Gustavo Tarre, Venezuela's representative to the Organization of American States, said that after the eviction notice was served, three activists left the building. Four remained, Tarre said.

Brian Becker, national director of the Answer Coalition, which supports the activists, said those still inside the building will not leave voluntarily. He said police cut the chains that were locking the front gate and handed the order to activists who came to the ground level to meet them.

Rafael Alfonso, director of operations for the embassy, said it appeared unlikely that the remaining activists would be removed from the embassy Monday night and that the situation would be revisited sometime on Tuesday.

Monday, May 13

Venezuela announces end to exchange controls

Venezuela has announced the lifting of foreign exchange controls on banks for the first time in 16 years, but some observers are sceptical the measure will do much to lift the shrinking economy.

Economist Asdrubal Oliveros said some private institutions struggle to do international transactions because of US sanctions imposed in a campaign aimed at pressuring Maduro out of office.

The exchange controls were imposed by Maduro's predecessor, Hugo Chavez, following an attempted coup in 2002.

Sunday, May 12

Venezuelans return to their country

More than 50,000 Venezuelans have returned to the country thanks to a special homecoming plan, according to the latest data released by the country’s foreign ministry.

Venezuelan media reported on Sunday that 60 percent of returnees are women, while 30 percent are children.

Maduro proposed a programme to facilitate the homecoming of Venezuelan citizens who migrated to neighbouring countries like Argentina, Peru, and Ecuador, but are discriminated against or treated unfairly due to their nationality.

The Venezuelan government said that under the programme, applicants can take free flights back to Venezuela.

It's time to rise up - Venezuelan general 

A Venezuelan general called on the country's armed forces on Sunday to rise up against Maduro, who has relied on the backing of the military to hold on to power despite an economic collapse.

Ramon Rangel, who identified himself as an air force general, said the Venezuelan government is being controlled by the "communist dictatorship" in Cuba - a key Maduro ally.

"We have to find a way to get rid of the fear, to go out into the streets, to protest, and to seek a military union to change this political system," Rangel, dressed in a suit with a copy of the constitution in his hand, said in a video posted on YouTube. "It's time to rise up."

Air Force Commander Pedro Juliac posted a picture of Rangel on Twitter on Sunday with the words "traitor to the Venezuelan people and the revolution" printed across the image.

Rangel was an active military officer who fled to Colombia last month, according to a source close to Venezuela's military who asked not to be identified.

Saturday, May  11

Guaido asks for relations with US military

Guaido said he's instructed his political envoy in Washington to immediately open relations with the US military.

Guaido said Saturday that he's asked his ambassador Carlos Vecchio to open "direct communications" toward possible coordination.

In recent days Venezuelan security forces arrested National Assembly Vice President Edgar Zambrano, the body's No. 2 leader. Other lawmakers also scrambled for refuge in foreign embassies amid renewed fears of a crackdown following an unsuccessful military rebellion.

Guaido said he's keeping "all options on the table" to remove Maduro, repeating language used by US President Donald Trump and his chief advisers.

Earlier this week, US Navy Adm. Craig Faller said he would meet with Guaido when invited to discuss the future role of Venezuela's armed forces.

Crowds decline at Venezuela protests 

A modest crowd of Venezuelans took to the streets Saturday to show support for the opposition-led Congress.

Opposition leader Guaido addressed several hundred people who had gathered in the capital in support of his bid to oust the socialist president.

But the noticeably diminished crowds reflected a growing fear and demoralisation that has permeated Guaido's ranks of supporters after he led a failed military uprising on April 30. 

Friday, May 10

Venezuela reopens borders with Brazil, Aruba

President Maduro is reopening Venezuela's borders with Aruba and Brazil after shutting off land and sea access in February to block the opposition from delivering international humanitarian aid.

Industry Minister Tareck El Aissami said Friday that the borders with Colombia and two other Dutch Caribbean islands remain shuttered because their leaders have not sufficiently assured that Venezuela's sovereignty will be respected.

"Hopefully wisdom prevails for the authorities of the other islands," El Aissami said in a broadcast on state television, "and they avoid becoming instruments of aggression against the territory of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela."

Wednesday, May 8

Deputy of Venezuela's Guaido arrested 

Venezuelan intelligence agents detained opposition leader Guaido's congressional deputy on Wednesday. 

The SEBIN intelligence agency seized Edgar Zambrano, vice president of the opposition-controlled National Assembly, using a tow truck to drag his vehicle away with him inside.

This prompted the US government to warn of "consequences" if he was not released.

Venezuela strips lawmakers of immunity over uprising

Venezuela stripped seven lawmakers of their parliamentary immunity for supporting last week's failed military coup against Venezuelan President Maduro.

Guaido, was not among the seven, despite orchestrating last week's uprising by a group of around 30 military personnel.

Tuesday, May 7

Venezuela to prosecute opposition lawmakers

Venezuela’s Supreme Court on Tuesday ordered the prosecution of seven lawmakers who supported last week’s failed uprising orchestrated by Guaido. 

The court, announcing the ruling in a statement, said it had asked Attorney General Tarek William Saab “to continue the criminal investigation of this case.”

Monday, May 6

Mass arrests after 'coup' bid

Five people died and 233 were arrested in protests sparked by a failed military 'coup' against Maduro last week, Attorney General Tarek William Saab said on Monday.

"All those cases are being investigated," Saab said in a television interview.

A small number of military personnel on April 30 joined Guaido outside an air base in the capital Caracas calling on those inside to join the rebellion.

The insurrection quickly petered out, though, and 25 rebel soldiers sought refuge in the Brazilian embassy.

Saab, confirmed that 18 arrest warrants were issued against "civilians and military plotters," although he gave no names.

Sunday, May 5

Venezuelan military helicopter crashes, 7 officers killed

Seven Venezuelan military officers have been killed when their helicopter crashed while heading to a state where Maduro appeared alongside troops Saturday.

The Cougar helicopter hurtled into a mountain outside Caracas in the early hours of an overcast day in the capital.

On board were two lieutenant colonels as well as five lower-ranking officers.

Saturday, May 4

Maduro warns forces of US attack

President Maduro called on the armed forces to be "ready" in the event of a US military offensive against the South American country during a speech to troops.

He called on the military "to be ready to defend the homeland with weapons in your hands if one day the US empire dares to touch this territory, this sacred earth."

Guaido asks for military support

Opposition's Guaido will make a fresh bid to rally Venezuela's armed forces behind him with protests at military bases in the crisis-hit country.

The protest call by Guaido comes just days after he urged the military to rise up against Maduro.

Friday, May 3

Trump, Putin discuss Venezuela

US President Trump said on Friday he focused on humanitarian aid for Venezuelans during a phone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin, backing away from recent harsh rhetoric about Russian involvement in the crisis.

Trump and Putin spoke for more than an hour on several topics, their first known conversation since December and since tensions flared in Venezuela, where Washington backs opposition leader Guaido and Moscow supports Maduro.

A month ago, when Russia sent a contingent of special forces to Caracas, Trump told reporters, "Russia has to get out."

On Friday, he made no mention of the troops.

"We talked about many things, Venezuela was one of the topics," Trump told reporters at the White House.

"And he [Putin] is not looking at all to get involved in Venezuela other than he would like to see something positive happen for Venezuela, and I feel the same way. We want to get some humanitarian aid – right now people are starving, they have no food, they have no water," Trump said.

Shanahan, Pompeo and Bolton meet on Venezuela

The commander of US forces in South America briefed top Trump administration officials Friday on the crisis in Venezuela and options for potential military action.

In an interview with a small group of reporters, Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan said Navy Admiral Craig Faller, commander of US Southern Command, flew to Washington to meet with him and other senior officials, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and John Bolton, President Trump's national security adviser.

"We have a comprehensive set of options tailored to certain conditions, and I'm just going to leave it at that," he said. Pressed to say whether the options include direct military intervention, he said, "I'll leave that to your imagination. All options are on the table."

They reviewed and refined military planning and options for responding to the crisis, Shanahan said. He declined to provide details and gave no indication they made decisions to take any military action.

Guaido calls on Venezuelans to talk to troops

Guaido will take his quest to win over Venezuela's troops back to the streets with a new mobilisation effort outside military installations.

He said at a press conference that Venezuelans should try talking to troops around the country and telling them to "join the movement."

Few heeded Guaido's call for an uprising on Tuesday.

15-year-old killed during protests

Human rights groups said a 15-year-old boy is the latest casualty in Venezuela's ongoing unrest.

The Venezuelan Observatory of Social Conflict reported on Friday that Yonder Villasmil was killed during a protest in the northwestern state of Merida.

The organisation said Villasmil died on Thursday night in a demonstration over power outages.

Four other deaths were previously reported in protests rocking the nation after Guaido tried to spark a military uprising on Tuesday.

Over 200 have been injured in clashes this week.

The observatory said 58 people have died during protests so far this year.

Ambassador Mario Isea reacts to Spanish govt

Venezuela's ambassador in Madrid rebuked the Spanish government for allowing a leading opponent of Maduro to speak out from his refuge at the Spanish Embassy in Caracas.

Opposition activist Leopoldo Lopez spoke with reporters on Thursday at the gate of the Spanish ambassador's home in the Venezuelan capital, days after breaking house arrest to join an attempted military revolt against Maduro.

Ambassador Mario Isea told Radio Nacional de Espana that permitting Lopez to urge Venezuelans to back the uprising is "inappropriate."

He said on Friday that it's "extraordinary for [Lopez] to use the ambassador's residence as an operational base to abet a military uprising," according to private Spanish news agency Europa Press.

Venezuela's top court has ordered Lopez's arrest, but Spain has refused to hand him over.

Spain says embassy will not become centre of political activity

Spain's acting foreign minister said a Venezuelan anti-government activist is a guest at the Spanish Embassy in Caracas, which can't be turned into a centre of political activities.

Borrell spoke with journalists on Friday during a visit to the Lebanese capital, Beirut.

"He is a guest and was received as a guest," Borrell said. "We can't permit that the Spanish Embassy be the centre of political activities in Venezuela."

Lopez taunts Maduro after court orders arrest

Lopez sent a defiant message to Maduro from his refuge in the Spanish ambassador's residence in Caracas after the country's top court ordered his arrest on Thursday.

Lopez said Tuesday's opposition attempt to incite a military uprising against Maduro's government, which seemed to have fizzled out by Wednesday, was "part of a process."

"It's a crack that will become a bigger crack ... that will end up breaking the dam," the 48-year-old told reporters congregated outside the residence.

Lopez said he expects the country's military will step up to overthrow Maduro despite setbacks.

He said that in recent weeks he's talked with majors in the Venezuelan armed forces who told him they are committed to Maduro's ouster.

Lopez, who was imprisoned in 2014 and transferred to house arrest three years later, made a sensational public appearance alongside opposition leader Guaido and a group of rebel military personnel outside a Caracas air base on Tuesday.

Lopez said he's spent the last five years surrounded by jail guards and security forces posted at his home, giving him insight into their perspective.

Meanwhile, the Spanish government said it will not hand over Lopez to the Venezuelan government.

Thursday, May 2

Maduro urges military to fight 'any coup plotter'

Maduro called on the armed forces to oppose "any coup plotter" after a military uprising in support of Guaido fizzled out, and subsequent street clashes left four protesters dead.

On Tuesday, Guaido – who has been recognised by more than 50 countries as the crisis-wracked country's interim president –urged the armed forces to rise up against the embattled leader.

A small group heeded the call, but the movement failed to ignite – the military leadership ratified their support for the government, and Maduro is standing his ground despite international pressure.

"Yes, we are in combat, keep morale high in this fight to disarm any traitor, any coup plotter," Maduro said Thursday at a televised event with the military high command, at which he was surrounded by soldiers.

"No one can be afraid – it is the hour to defend our right to peace," he said at a ceremony attended by 4,500 military personnel, according to the government.

"We've come to ratify our loyalty ... to the supreme commander of the armed forces, who is our only president, President Nicolas Maduro," Defence Minister General Vladimir Padrino said at the event. 

Top court orders Lopez's arrest

Venezuela's top court has ordered the arrest of Lopez, an opposition activist who took refuge in the Spanish Embassy after joining an attempt to topple Maduro this week.

The Supreme Tribunal of Justice on Thursday instructed police to detain Lopez for violating terms of his house arrest.

On Tuesday, Lopez appeared outside a military base in Caracas with Guaido, who urged the military to overthrow Maduro. When the military did not heed the call, Lopez and his family sought refuge in the Chilean ambassador's residence.

They later moved to the Spanish Embassy.

'End of Maduro government'

Former Venezuelan politician and UN ambassador Diego Arria said he believes the events of the past two days "mark the end" of Maduro's government.

Arria, a former National Congress deputy, minister and governor of Caracas who now lives in exile, told a press conference Thursday at UN headquarters in New York it is incorrect to think of the military as separate from Maduro's government.

"When you have more than half of the ministries controlled by the army, and they control the oil, the diamonds, the coal, the minerals, the gasoline and the justice and economic system, you have to understand that fundamentally the regime is military," Arria said. "So what has to collapse is the regime itself."

He said Venezuela has become "a criminal state controlled by mafia and narco-traffickers" and it "will not come out of this without the use of force."

"I hope it will be our armed forces, and we don't need to appeal to outside," said Arria, who backs Guaido as Venezuela's legitimate president.

Maduro highlights military loyalty 

Maduro and key military figures made a show of unity in a television broadcast on Thursday, seeking to reject claims by the United States and the opposition that the armed forces high command was prepared to turn on him.

Flanked by Defence Minister Padrino and military operations chief Remigio Ceballos, Maduro said in a dawn national address posted first to social media that the armed forces were "united, cohesive and subordinate to their constitutional mandate".

Trump says 'repression' of Venezuelan people must end

US President Trump said the "brutal repression" of the Venezuelan people must end, and it must end soon.

He said the Venezuelan people are starving and have no water.

"We wish them well," he said.

Trump was speaking Thursday at the White House as part of a National Day of Prayer ceremony.

He began the event by saying he was sending prayers to the people of Venezuela in their "righteous struggle for freedom."

Four dead in two days of protests - human rights group

A Venezuelan human rights group said at least four people died in two days of protests after Guaido called for a military uprising.

The Venezuelan Observatory of Social Conflict said the dead from the unrest on Tuesday and Wednesday include two people who were shot in the city of La Victoria and two others hit by gunfire in Caracas, the capital.

Human rights activists said at least 230 people were injured and 205 were detained during the clashes between protesters and police.

Lavrov characterises phone call with Pompeo

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has characterised a phone call with US Secretary of State Pompeo about the crisis in Venezuela as having elements of the surreal.

Lavrov made his comments Thursday in the Uzbek capital of Tashkent, a day after he spoke with Pompeo about protests against Maduro.

"Pompeo phoned, called for us to refuse to support Maduro, called for Cuba and us not to interfere in the internal affairs of Venezuela. The whole story sounds quite surreal," Lavrov said.

"If you count up all that official representatives of the American administration say about Venezuela, then you can pose questions endlessly and to all these questions the answer will be, to put it diplomatically: it's untrue," he said.

Pompeo claimed earlier that Maduro was ready to flee the South American country, but that unspecified Russians persuaded him to stay.

Moscow didn't ask Maduro not to leave Venezuela - RIA

Lavrov dismissed as untrue on Thursday assertions by US officials that Moscow had urged Maduro not to leave the country amid the continuing unrest there, RIA news agency reported.

Pompeo told broadcaster CNN on Tuesday that Maduro was prepared to leave the country that morning in the face of a call for an uprising by opposition leader Guaido, but reversed his plan after Russia intervened.

Pompeo suggested Maduro had been planning to fly to Cuba, which Maduro himself has since dismissed.

RIA on Thursday also cited Lavrov as saying that Russia and the United States had irreconcilable positions on Venezuela but that they had agreed to continue talks.

Lopez's stay as a guest - Borrell

Spain's acting foreign minister said a Venezuelan anti-government activist has not asked Spanish authorities for political asylum.

Josep Borrell, who is the foreign minister in Spain's caretaker government, said Lopez is staying as a guest at the Spanish embassy in Caracas.

Borrell said on Thursday that, under Spanish law, requests for asylum can be made only in Spain.

He told Spanish media during an official trip to Jordan that Lopez is staying at the embassy until his next steps become clearer.

Spain has in recent years become a destination for thousands of Venezuelans escaping the country's political and economic crisis.

Maduro calls for military unity

President Maduro has called for military unity in an appearance with soldiers at the air base where Guaido called for an uprising two days earlier.

Flanked by commanders, Maduro said on Thursday that the military must be prepared to combat "traitors" and the opposition had sought to provoke bloodshed in Caracas since security forces failed to respond to Guaido's bid to take power.

He spoke from the Carlota air base in the opposition's stronghold of eastern Caracas that was the epicentre of the short-lived uprising.

Guaido, backed by a small contingent of security forces, called for the military to turn against Maduro on Tuesday. But police dispersed the crowds in clashes that raged for hours.

Thousands of Venezuelans heeded the opposition's call to fill streets around the nation a day later.

The streets of the capital were calm on Thursday.

Wednesday, May 1

Opposition supporters clash with armed forces

Clashes broke out between opposition supporters and Venezuela's armed forces in the capital Caracas on Wednesday during May Day protests with opposition leader Guaido attempting to rally demonstrators against Maduro.

National Guard troops fired tear gas at stone-throwing protesters attempting to block a highway close to the air base in eastern Caracas where Guaido had tried on Tuesday to spark a military uprising against Maduro.

A second day of confrontations between opposition supporters and Maduro's security services came as the United States said it was prepared to take military action, if necessary, to stem the crisis in the South American nation.

One woman reportedly died after being shot in the head during the protests.

On Tuesday as well, one person was killed and dozens injured, according to human rights monitors.

Thousands gather in rival rallies

Venezuelans braced for another day of upheaval as both the opposition and President Maduro's loyalists vowed to take to the streets, hoping to tip the balance in an agonising power struggle that appeared to grow even more desperate after a so-far unsuccessful attempt to spark a military coup.

Several hundred opposition supporters have gathered in a Caracas neighbourhood, heeding a call by Guaido for more protests a day after his calls for a military uprising fell short.

President Maduro has also called on his supporters to take to the streets, and a large group has already turned out.

Maduro has accused Guaido of trying to stage a coup and said there will be criminal prosecutions.

Russia warns against US 'interference'

Lavrov told Pompeo by phone that further "aggressive steps" in Venezuela would be fraught with the gravest consequences, Russia's Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday.

Lavrov also condemned what he called the United States' "interference" in Venezuela's internal affairs as a breach of international law, adding that dialogue between all political forces is required in the Latin American country.

US military action possibility if 'required' – Pompeo

Pompeo said during a television interview on Wednesday that the United States was not ruling out military action to back the coup attempt underway in Venezuela by Guido.

"Military action is possible. If that's what's required, that's what the United States will do," Pompeo said in an interview with Fox Business Network, but added that the United States would prefer a peaceful transition of power in Venezuela.

Pompeo was repeating a statement he made to Fox News on Tuesday calling for Maduro to leave the country.

"President [Trump] has been consistent and unambiguous about that, that the option to use military force is available if that is what is ultimately called for. We hope it's not. We hope there can be a peaceful resolution and that Maduro will leave without violence."

Tuesday, April 30 

Maduro announces 'criminal prosecutions'

Maduro warned Tuesday that those responsible for a military uprising against him would face "criminal prosecutions."

"This will not go unpunished,” Maduro said in an address broadcast on television and the radio.

"I have spoken to the attorney general. I have chosen three prosecutors... who will interrogate all people involved... and they will launch criminal prosecutions for the serious crimes that have been committed against the constitution, the rule of law and the right to peace."

He also denied alleged plans to flee the country.

Call for fresh protests 

Guaido called for a fresh round of protests on Wednesday against Maduro, after clashes broke out between security forces and anti-government demonstrators. 

“I am calling on the armed forces to continue their march in ‘Operation Freedom.’ Tomorrow, May 1, we will continue... across all of Venezuela, we will be on the streets,” Guaido said in a video message released on social media.

Pompeo says Maduro was ready to leave

Pompeo said on Tuesday that Maduro was ready to leave the country before Russia convinced him to stay. 

"It’s been a long time since anyone has seen Maduro. He had an airplane on the tarmac. He was ready to leave this morning, as we understand it, and the Russians indicated he should stay," Pompeo said in an interview with CNN.   

"We’ve made clear that all along, Maduro has been surrounded by Cubans and has been supported by Russians there in Venezuela," he added.

TRT World spoke to Miguel Tinker Salas, a professor at California’s Pomona College, who says there is no evidence to back Pompeo’s claim.

Emergency meeting on Venezuela

The Lima Group of mostly Latin American countries will hold an emergency meeting in Lima on Friday to discuss the crisis in Venezuela, Peru’s foreign ministry said. 

The move, announced Tuesday, comes following a call from Guaido on the military to help him oust Maduro that sparked rioting and clashes between protesters and security services.

Dozens injured

At least 69 people were injured in Caracas, two from gunfire, during clashes between demonstrators and security forces, Venezuela’s health services said. 

Local press said a third person suffered a gunshot wound while the government claimed a soldier was hit by a bullet during the clashes on Tuesday.

Venezuela FM says Maduro in control

Venezuela’s Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza has denied there was a military coup attempt under way to oust Maduro and accused Guaido of operating under orders from Washington. 

Guaido called for a military uprising and armed factions exchanged gunfire outside a Caracas air base on Tuesday, although the incident fizzled out and did not appear to be part of an immediate attempt by the opposition to take power through military force. 

"It is not a coup attempt from the military. This is directly planned in Washington, in the Pentagon and Department of State, and by Bolton,” Arreaza told Reuters in a phone interview from Caracas, referring to US national security adviser Bolton. 

"They are leading this coup and giving orders to this man (Juan) Guaido," he said.

Bolton calls on defence chief, key officials to oust Maduro

US National Security Adviser Bolton called on Tuesday on Venezuela's defence chief and other key officials to oust President Maduro, warning them "Your time is up."

Bolton singled out Defence Minister Padrino, Supreme Court chief justice Maikel Moreno and presidential guard commander Ivan Hernandez Dala, saying they had committed to removing Maduro from power.

"And it is time for them now, if the Cubans will let them do it, to fulfill their commitments and it is time for the rest of the military to show what their own families believe ought to happen and that is Maduro needs to go," he told reporters at the White House.

Bolton repeated that message in a Tweet: "Your time is up. This is your last chance. Accept Interim President Guaido's amnesty, protect the Constitution, and remove Maduro, and we will take you off our sanctions list. Stay with Maduro, and go down with the ship."

US helped opposition activist escape arrest – foreign minister

Arreaza said the US likely paid a guard to allow opposition activist Lopez escape house arrest. Arreaza said the uprising will soon be contained.

Arreaza said in a phone interview with the Associated Press that Maduro is monitoring events closely from the central command facility.

But he said that the thousands of supporters of opposition leader Guaido who've gathered in eastern Caracas won't succeed in breaking the military's loyalty to Maduro.

Lopez appeared alongside Guaido with a number of rebellious military members in Caracas on Tuesday and the two called for a military uprising. 

Maduro claims 'total loyalty' of military chiefs

Embattled President Maduro said Tuesday Venezuela's military chiefs had assured him of their "total loyalty," after a group of soldiers rose up in support of opposition leader Guaido.

"Nerves of Steel! I have spoken with the commanders of all the (defence regions and operational zones), who have expressed their total loyalty to the People, the Constitution and the Fatherland," he said on Twitter, in his first public comment on the military uprising.

"I call for the maximum popular mobilisation to assure the victory of Peace. We will overcome!" he said.

Gunshots outside Venezuela air base - witnesses

Gunshots were heard at a rally led by Venezuelan opposition leader Guaido outside a Caracas air base, Reuters witnesses said.

They said men in military uniform, who were accompanying Guaido at the scene, were exchanging fire with soldiers acting in support of Maduro. The witnesses said the shots appeared to be live rounds.

US 'fully supports' Venezuelan people's 'quest' for freedom

Pompeo said the Trump administration backs Venezuelan congressional leader Guaido in his call for a military uprising against Maduro.

Pompeo said in a tweet that the US "fully supports" Guaido's call for the start of "Operacion Libertad." The US stands with the Venezuelan people "in their quest for freedom and democracy." 

"The FANB must protect the Constitution and the Venezuelan people," US National Security Adviser Bolton said, referring to the FANB armed forces. 

"It should stand by the National Assembly and the legitimate institutions against the usurpation of democracy. The United States stands with the people of Venezuela," Bolton tweeted.

Spain not supporting any 'military coup'

Spain warned on Tuesday against "bloodshed" in Venezuela where opposition leader Guaido said he had the support of some soldiers in a move Caracas denounced as an "attempted military coup".

"We strongly hope that there will be no bloodshed," Spanish government spokeswoman Isabel Celaa told reporters.

She called for "democratic elections" and said Madrid supports a "peaceful" outcome to the Venezuela crisis.

"Spain is not supporting any military coup," she said. 

Cuba slams coup bid

Cuba said it "forcefully condemns" the attempted coup detat under way in Venezuela. 

"Cuba offers firm support and loyalty to Nicolas Maduro, the constitutional president of our sister nation and to his chavista and Bolivarian government. Let there be an end to the assaults on peace in [Latin] America," the Cuban foreign ministry said. 

Army in place – defence minister 

Venezuela's defence minister said armed forces are "firmly in defence of the national constitution and legitimate authorities."

Venezuela's socialist party boss Diosdado Cabello also called on government supporters to amass at the presidential palace to defend Maduro from what he said is a small uprising of traitorous military soldiers backed by the US.

Cabello downplayed the significance of the rebellion, saying Caracas is calm and that the Carlota air base near where the rebellious soldiers are gathered had not been touched.

Confronting 'coup attempt' - information minister

Venezuelan Information Minister Jorge Rodriguez said on Twitter that Maduro's government is confronting a small "coup attempt" led by military "traitors."

Tear gas was fired at a highway overpass near the Caracas air base where Guaido and several heavily armed soldiers with blue bands wrapped around their forearms had been standing guard.

The tear gas appeared to have been fired from inside the Carlota air base.

Guaido claims support of soldiers for 'uprising'

Guaido announced on Tuesday that he had support from a group of "brave soldiers."

"Today brave soldiers, brave patriots, brave men supporting the Constitution have answered our call," Guaido said in an early morning video shot next to Carlota air base in Caracas surrounded by several heavily-armed soldiers backed by a few armoured vehicles.

Guaido said soldiers who had taken to the streets were protecting Venezuela's constitution. He made the comments a day before a planned anti-government rally. 

"The moment is now," he said.

Guaido has taken to the streets with activist Lopez and the soldiers. Lopez was previously under house arrest.

"This is the moment of all Venezuelans, those in uniform and those who aren't," said Lopez in his first public appearance since being detained in 2014 for leading anti-government protests. 

"Everyone should come to the streets, in peace."

Lopez said he has been freed by the military. 

As Lopez spoke, there were sporadic efforts with tear gas to break up the protesters who gathered on a highway overpass in wealthier eastern Caracas. It appeared to have been fired from inside the Carlota air base. But more people gathered as they sensed what could be their strongest opportunity yet to overthrow the government.

"It's now or never," said one of the young soldiers, his face covered in the blue bandanna preferred by the few dozen soldiers who stood alongside Guaido and Lopez.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies