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Venezuela’s President Nicolás Maduro revealed he had been in talks with the Trump administration for months, even as the US ramped up its sanctions.

The US is one of more than 50 nations which do not recognize Nicolás Maduro as Venezuela’s legitimate leader.

On August 20, President Maduro said that talks with the Trump administration had been going on for months.

However, US National Security Adviser John Bolton said the only thing being discussed was Nicolás Maduro’s departure.

Speaking on TV, President Maduro said: “Just as I have sought dialogue in Venezuela, I have sought a way in which President Trump really listens to Venezuela.”

President Donald Trump confirmed on August 20 that his administration was “talking to various representatives of Venezuela”.

He said: “I don’t want to say who, but we are talking at a very high level.”

President Maduro had suggested that he authorized the back-channel discussions.

However, John Bolton cast those contacts in a very different light, tweeting: “As the President has repeatedly stated, to end the pilfering of the Venezuelan people’s resources and continued repression, Maduro must go. The only items discussed by those who are reaching out behind Maduro’s back are his departure and free and fair elections.”

John Bolton said President Trump’s aim was to “to end the pilfering of the Venezuelan people’s resources and continued repression” and that to that end, President Maduro “must go”.

Venezuela: Juan Guaido Accused of Coup Bid

Venezuela Crisis: Russia Condemns Foreign Powers for Backing Juan Guaido

The US imposed sweeping sanctions earlier this month aimed at increasing pressure on President Maduro to step down.

Venezuela has been caught up in a struggle for power between President Maduro and the leader of the country’s National Assembly, Juan Guaidó.

Juan Guaidó declared himself interim president in January, claiming that the elections which brought Nicolás Maduro to power for a second term were fraudulent.

While Juan Guaidó has gained the backing of over 50 countries he has so far failed to remove Nicolás Maduro from power.

Talks between the two sides hosted by Barbados and mediated by Norway recently stalled after President Maduro denounced the opposition for backing the sweeping sanctions imposed by the US.

According to the UN, Venezuela is suffering one of the worst economic crises in history with a quarter of its 30 million population in need of aid.

More than four million Venezuelans have left the country over the past years.

Nicolás Maduro’s government has come under fire by the international community for a number of reasons.

When opposition parties gained a majority in Venezuela’s National Assembly, the president created a rival body stacked with his supporters which assumed many of its powers. His 2018 re-election was controversial, and labeled as rigged by his critics, after many rivals were barred from running or fled the country.

Protests and demonstrations erupted into violence and were met with a crackdown by authorities which saw civilians killed.

The US has been a frequent target of Nicolás Maduro’s anger.

President Maduro has accused the US, and John Bolton in particular, of trying to kill him, without supplying any evidence. He claims that his opposition is backed by foreign powers, rather than a domestic resistance to his authority.

Government officials were the first target of US sanctions against Nicolás Maduro’s government – but earlier this year, it brought new restrictions forward on the state oil company, which is a major player in the national economy.

That was followed in August by sweeping sanctions that froze all property of the government in the US, and blocks American companies doing business with Venezuela.

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A massive power cut has plunged Venezuela into darkness, with the capital Caracas among the areas affected.

It is believed at least 18 of Venezuela’s 23 states have lost power.

Information Minister Jorge Rodrigues claimed the power cut was caused by an “electromagnetic attack” and officials were working to restore power.

Earlier this year, Venezuela was hit by a series of power cuts, including one that affected all 23 states and lasted a week, leading to shortages and riots.

Another outage in April plunged large swathes of the country into darkness; however, that lasted hours rather than days.

Sporadic blackouts are common in Venezuela, where the economy has collapsed amid a political crisis.

President Nicolás Maduro and other state officials have in the past blamed “terrorism” and opposition sabotage, often alleging US involvement.

The opposition has said the power cuts are the result of years of corruption and underinvestment.

Image source Anadolu Agency

Venezuela: Juan Guaido Accused of Coup Bid

Venezuela Crisis: Russia Condemns Foreign Powers for Backing Juan Guaido

Venezuela Elections 2018: Nicolas Maduro Wins Another Six-Year Term Amid Opposition Boycott

Venezuela’s state-owned power company Corpolec earlier reported that a breakdown had only affected parts of Caracas.

Opposition leader Juan Guaidó and President Nicolás Maduro have been at loggerheads since January, when the former invoked the constitution and declared himself interim president.

Juan Guaidó argued that the elections which had returned Nicolás Maduro to power for a second term in 2018 had not been free and fair.

Since then, more than 50 countries, including the US and most nations in Latin America, have recognized Juan Guaidó as Venezuela’s legitimate leader.

However, Venezuela’s military – a powerful force in the country – and influential allies such as China and Russia have stuck by Nicolás Maduro.

An attempt by Juan Guaidó to get the military to switch allegiance to him failed, and Venezuela remains in limbo with both men claiming to be the legitimate president.

Meanwhile, a severe economic crisis has exacerbated and shortages of food and medicines have grown even more acute.

According to UN figures, 4 million people have fled Venezuela since 2015.

The government blames the shortages on US sanctions but the opposition says they are down to years of mismanagement.

Preliminary talks between Juan Guaidó and Nicolás Maduro were held in Oslo in May, but they petered out without an agreement.

However, they resumed earlier this month, with the Norwegian foreign ministry again acting as a mediator.

Members of the Venezuelan government say they are putting down a small coup attempt after opposition leader Juan Guaido announced he was in the “final phase” of ending President Nicolas Maduro’s rule.

He appeared in a video with uniformed men, saying he had military support.

Juan Guaido, who declared himself interim president in January, called for more members of the military to help him end Nicolas Maduro’s “usurpation” of power.

However, military leaders appeared to be standing behind Nicolas Maduro.

Venezuela’s defense minister appeared on TV to stress the point. However, pictures from Caracas show some soldiers aligning themselves with Juan Guaido’s supporters.

Nicolas Maduro’s detractors hope the military will change its allegiance as resentment grows following years of hyperinflation, power cuts, food and medicine shortages.

So far, the armed forces have stood by President Maduro – despite dozens of countries, including the UK, the US and most of Latin America, recognizing Juan Guaido as Venezuela’s rightful leader.

As a result, John Bolton, the US national security adviser, said what was taking place in Venezuela was not a coup, but a legitimate leader trying to take control.

Protesters supporting both sides have gathered at different points in the capital, Caracas.

There are running clashes between Juan Guaido’s supporters and armed military vehicles. Protesters were also seen throwing rocks, but being repelled by tear gas and water cannon.

TV cameras also caught the moment armored vehicles drove into a crowd but it is unclear if there were any injuries.

According to El Universal newspaper, at least 37 people had been injured across Caracas.

Meanwhile, Venezuelan Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino said the uprising by some members of the military had been “partly defeated”, but warned of possible bloodshed.

He warned: “The weapons of the republic are here to defend the nation’s sovereignty and independence.”

Vladimir Padrino also revealed one soldier had suffered a bullet wound.

Venezuela Crisis: Russia Condemns Foreign Powers for Backing Juan Guaido

Venezuela Elections 2018: Nicolas Maduro Wins Another Six-Year Term Amid Opposition Boycott

A three-minute video by Juan Guaido was published on April 30. In the video, he announced he had the support of “brave soldiers” in Caracas.

“The National Armed Forces have taken the correct decision… they are guaranteed to be on the right side of history,” he said.

Juan Guaido was filmed alongside another opposition leader, Leopoldo Lopez, who has been under house arrest since being found guilty of inciting violence during anti-government protests in 2014.

Leopoldo Lopez, who leads the Popular Will party of which Juan Guaido is a member, said he had been freed by members of the military.

He went on to urge Venezuelans to join them on the streets.

Meanwhile, Chile’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs revealed he, his wife Lilian Tintori and their daughter had entered Chile’s embassy in Caracas to seek protection.

Juan Guaido, the president of the opposition-controlled National Assembly, has been calling on the military to back him ever since he declared himself interim president.

He argues that President Nicolas Maduro is a “usurper” because he was re-elected in polls that had been widely disputed.

The video appeared to have been recorded at dawn in or near La Carlota air force base in Caracas.

Venezuelan troops fired tear gas and rubber bullets at protesters who attempted to collect a foreign aid at the border, as President Nicolás Maduro blocked the humanitarian transport from crossing from Colombia and Brazil.

On February 23, a number of people were shot with live ammunition, human rights groups say. At least two people were killed.

The opposition wants the aid to go to people hit by the economic crisis, but President Maduro sees it as a security threat.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo condemned the attacks on civilians, which he blamed on “Maduro’s thugs”.

He said in a tweet following the clashes: “Our deepest sympathies to the families of those who have died due to these criminal acts. We join their demand for justice.”

Mike Pompeo also described the burning of some of the aid as “sickening”.

Venezuela’s opposition leader Juan Guaidó, who has declared himself interim president and helped to organize the aid, condemned the action by security forces.

Juan Guaidó, who has been recognized as leader by dozens of nations, will meet Vice President Mike Pence on February 25 in Bogota, Colombia.

Mike Pence is travelling there to meet leaders of the regional Lima Group, in spite of a travel ban imposed on him by President Maduro’s government.

Venezuela Crisis: Russia Condemns Foreign Powers for Backing Juan Guaido

Venezuela Elections 2018: Nicolas Maduro Wins Another Six-Year Term Amid Opposition Boycott

On February 23, Juan Guaidó posted a tweet which implored the international community to be “open to all options” in order to “liberate” Venezuela from Nicolas Maduro – who is continuing to resist all calls to stand down.

Juan Guaidó organized the collection of hundreds of tonnes of foreign aid at the country’s borders. He gave the government a deadline of Saturday to allow the aid to be brought into Venezuela or vowed to have volunteers march it in themselves.

In response, President Maduro partly closed the country’s borders with Brazil and Colombia, citing threats to security and sovereignty. On February 23, Venezuelans civilians attempted to cross in order to get to the aid stores, which included food and medicine.

Images from crossing points across Venezuela showed security forces firing tear gas at volunteers. Protesters burned outposts and threw projectiles at soldiers and riot police.

Rights groups say at least two people, including a 14-year-old boy, were shot dead in the clashes in Santa Elena de Uairen, near the country’s border with Brazil. Another two were reported to have been killed on February 22.

Amnesty International has described the use of firearms against protesters as a serious human rights violation and a crime under international law.

There have also been reports of several aid trucks being burned – something Juan Guaidó said was a violation of the Geneva Convention.

At about 19:00 local time on February 23, Colombia’s government estimated the number injured at border crossings to be about 300. Journalists at the scene have reported severe injuries among protesters, including several who appeared to have lost their eyes.

Venezuelan troops fired tear gas and rubber bullets at protesters who attempted to collect a foreign aid at the border, as President Nicolás Maduro blocked the humanitarian transport from crossing from Colombia and Brazil.

On February 23, a number of people were shot with live ammunition, human rights groups say. At least two people were killed.

The opposition wants the aid to go to people hit by the economic crisis, but President Maduro sees it as a security threat.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo condemned the attacks on civilians, which he blamed on “Maduro’s thugs”.

He said in a tweet following the clashes: “Our deepest sympathies to the families of those who have died due to these criminal acts. We join their demand for justice.”

Mike Pompeo also described the burning of some of the aid as “sickening”.

Venezuela’s opposition leader Juan Guaidó, who has declared himself interim president and helped to organize the aid, condemned the action by security forces.

Juan Guaidó, who has been recognized as leader by dozens of nations, will meet Vice President Mike Pence on February 25 in Bogota, Colombia.

Mike Pence is travelling there to meet leaders of the regional Lima Group, in spite of a travel ban imposed on him by President Maduro’s government.

On February 23, Juan Guaidó posted a tweet which implored the international community to be “open to all options” in order to “liberate” Venezuela from Nicolas Maduro – who is continuing to resist all calls to stand down.

Juan Guaidó organized the collection of hundreds of tonnes of foreign aid at the country’s borders. He gave the government a deadline of Saturday to allow the aid to be brought into Venezuela or vowed to have volunteers march it in themselves.

In response, President Maduro partly closed the country’s borders with Brazil and Colombia, citing threats to security and sovereignty. On February 23, Venezuelans civilians attempted to cross in order to get to the aid stores, which included food and medicine.

Images from crossing points across Venezuela showed security forces firing tear gas at volunteers. Protesters burned outposts and threw projectiles at soldiers and riot police.

Rights groups say at least two people, including a 14-year-old boy, were shot dead in the clashes in Santa Elena de Uairen, near the country’s border with Brazil. Another two were reported to have been killed on February 22.

Amnesty International has described the use of firearms against protesters as a serious human rights violation and a crime under international law.

There have also been reports of several aid trucks being burned – something Juan Guaidó said was a violation of the Geneva Convention.

At about 19:00 local time on February 23, Colombia’s government estimated the number injured at border crossings to be about 300. Journalists at the scene have reported severe injuries among protesters, including several who appeared to have lost their eyes.

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Moscow has condemned foreign powers for backing Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó who declared himself interim president, calling it a bid to “usurp power”.

Russia said that the move violated international law and was a “direct path to bloodshed”.

On January 23, Juan Guaidó declared himself interim leader – a move recognized by the US and several other nations.

Meanwhile, President Nicolás Maduro, who retains some other nations’ support, broke off relations with the US in response.

Nicolas Maduro has been in office since 2013. He was sworn in for a second term earlier this month, after winning a May 2018 election marred by an opposition boycott and widespread claims of vote-rigging.

President Nicolas Maduro’s Istanbul Lunch Sparks Outrage in VenezuelaJuan Guaidó is the head of the National Assembly, who has said articles within Venezuela’s constitution allow him to assume interim power because he believes Nicolas Maduro’s election, and therefore presidency, is invalid.

The opposition leader has vowed to lead a transitional government and hold free elections.

President Nicolas Maduro’s Istanbul Lunch Sparks Outrage in Venezuela

Venezuela Elections 2018: Nicolas Maduro Wins Another Six-Year Term Amid Opposition Boycott

President Donald Trump recognized Juan Guaidó as Venezuela’s new head of state minutes after his declaration in the capital, Caracas, on January 23.

President Trump urged other nations to follow suit – but the move has divided much of the international community.

Seven South American nations, as well as Canada and the UK, have now backed President Trump’s call.

The EU has stopped short of recognition, but called for “free and credible elections” and said Juan Guaidó’s freedom and safety should be respected.

Mexico, Bolivia and Cuba all expressed support for Nicolas Maduro, while Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan tweeted: “My brother Maduro! Stand tall, we are standing by you.”

China, a major investor in Venezuela, said it opposed any outside interference.

Russia sees Venezuela as one of its closest allies in the region. It has lent billions of dollars and has backed its oil industry and its military. Russia has also taken part in military exercises in Venezuela.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said: “We consider the attempt to usurp sovereign authority in Venezuela to contradict and violate the basis and principles of international law.

“Maduro is the legitimate head of state.”

A Russian foreign ministry statement said Juan Guaidó’s declaration was a “direct path to lawlessness and bloodshed”, adding: “Only Venezuelans have the right to determine their future.

“Destructive outside interference, especially in the current extremely tense situation, is unacceptable.”

Russia also warned that any US military interference would amount to “adventurism which is fraught with catastrophic consequences”.