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Venezuela crisis worsened by sanctions

08 March, 2019, 10:11 | Author: Lawrence Cooper
  • US doesn't exclude sanctions against those who cooperate with Venezuelan authorities

President Nicolas Maduro has urged Venezuelans to confront the "crazed minority" supporting US-backed Juan Guaido, by staging massive "anti-imperialist" rallies on the same day that the opposition plans to take to the streets.

The strikes would seek to capitalize on the opposition's momentum spurred by Guaido's triumphant return to Venezuela on Monday, after he flouted a travel ban to tour Latin American countries to muster support for his campaign to oust Maduro.

"We're not going to collaborate any longer with the dictatorship, " Guaido said after a meeting at the offices of an engineers' association in Caracas.

Guaido then went on to address an ecstatic rally of thousands of supporters, announcing a new round of anti-government protests for Saturday.

CARACAS-Venezuelans are hoping for negotiation and dialogue instead of foreign intervention in the country's political standoff as the opposition leader Juan Guaido returned to Venezuela on Monday.

However, UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet said sanctions have worsened Venezuela's crippling economic and political crisis, which has forced 2.7 million people to flee since 2015.

Washington, which has recognized Venezuela's opposition chief Juan Guaido as the country's leader, imposed sanctions on Venezuela's state oil company PDVSA last month.

"They thought the pressure had reached its zenith, but it's only just beginning", Guaido told reporters. "It is extremely hard to see how he could play a positive role in a democratic election", he said, adding that it was ultimately up to Venezuelans to decide Maduro's future role.

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The socialist government had kept unusually silent since Guaido landed, with no top officials commenting until Maduro spoke at the ceremony, held at the military barracks where Chavez launched a failed 1992 coup.

Earlier on Tuesday, Washington's top envoy for Venezuela, Elliott Abrams, said imposing US secondary sanctions against non-U.S. citizens or entities tied to the Maduro government was "clearly a possibility", although he said a decision had not been made on taking such a step.

"That's ultimately a decision for Venezuelans to make", Mr Abrams said.

While global pressure on the president has steadily increased - more than 50 countries, including the United States and most Latin American nations, have recognised Mr Guaido as interim leader - Maduro has dismissed all calls for him to step down.

"The moment has come and our call, our request, and our complete support for public employees, is to bring about this strike", Guaido said after meeting with state workers.

But troops blocked convoys of aid trucks sent from Colombia and Brazil, leading to clashes that killed at least six people along the Brazilian border, rights groups say.

Insisting there is no crisis, President Maduro has cut relations completely with Colombia and accuses the United States of planning an invasion. Maduro retains control of state institutions and the loyalty of senior figures in the armed forces.

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