SA backs beleaguered Venezuelan President Nicholas Maduro

Saul Bowman
January 28, 2019

Venezuelan dictator Nicolas Maduro says he's not stepping down, even as the worldwide community pressures him to consider the people of his country and cede control to opposition leader Juan Guaido, but did signal Sunday that he may be "ready to talk" with the United States.

Over the weekend, Washington officials called on the world to pick a side in the South American nation's humanitarian situation after socialist President Nicolas Maduro broke off relations with the United States on Wednesday.

He claims Maduro was illegitimately elected for a second term.

European powers including France, Netherlands and Germany on Saturday warned they would recognize opposition leader Juan Guaido as president unless Maduro calls elections within 8 days.

"Once again, Venezuela will overcome this coup, and no imperial power will break the moral resistance of the people of Venezuela".

"They can cut a flower, but they will never keep spring from coming", Guaido told supporters Friday, alluding to a phrase from the Chilean poet Pablo Neruda.

On January 23, Russia Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova confirmed that military contractors were operating in Sudan after British press reports stated that they were helping to crack down on protesters in that country, which is an ally of Moscow.

The coordinated announcements are the most explicit yet from European Union countries as the 28-member bloc struggles to draft a joint statement with regards to its position on the crisis in Venezuela.

Invoking constitutional provisions, National Assembly leader Guaido declared himself interim president until there are new elections.

But countries like Austria, Greece and Portugal are much more reluctant. Incumbent president Maduro won with almost 70 percent of the vote, but the results have been challenged both domestically and overseas.

Maduro also has the support of Russian Federation, whose foreign minister Sergei Lavrov denounced USA policy on Venezuela as "destructive". "I've got good news for you: They're going to stay open for a long while!" The National Assembly has argued for vacating the presidency and filling the position on an interim basis with the head of the legislative body.

But on Saturday Guaido, 35, gained support from a key military official.

In an interview with GloboNews on Thursday, Mourao suggested the possibility of offering Maduro and his team an "escape route" as a way of resolving the crisis, citing the tactics of a Brazilian army chief toward his Paraguayan enemy in the War of the Triple Alliance, a conflict which ended in 1870.

Some 29 people have been killed and more than 350 people have been detained in clashes this week between anti-Maduro activists and security forces.

Maduro, for his part, called for a "popular rebellion against the coup" on the streets of Venezuela.

"Any violence and intimidation against US diplomatic personnel, Venezuela's democratic leader, Juan Guiado, or the National Assembly itself would represent a grave assault on the rule of law and will be met with a significant response", Bolton tweeted Sunday. Guaido is instead urging the United States diplomats to stay and keep the embassy's doors open.

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