Several diplomats left the US embassy in Caracas in the middle of the day for the Venezuelan capital’s airport, witnesses said, while Washington wants to put more pressure on President Nicolas Maduro.
On Thursday, the US State Department ordered some members of its diplomatic staff to leave Venezuela and also advised US nationals to leave after Donald Trump recognized Juan Guaido as the new head of state in Venezuela.
President Nicolas Maduro consequently severed diplomatic relations with the United States, decided to close the Venezuelan embassy and consulates in the United States and asked the US diplomatic staff to leave the country within 72 hours.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will attend a meeting of the United Nations Security Council in New York on Saturday and will be asked to recognize Juan Guaido as acting president of the Latin American country.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov warned on Friday that Moscow would oppose the “destructive politics” of the United States. While visiting Rabat, Morocco, he denounced Washington’s “calls for coup”.
Nicolas Maduro on his side derided the initiative of the United States. “I was going to tell the Foreign Ministry to request a debate in the Security Council (but) Mike Pompeo has preceded me,” said the Venezuelan president. “Thank you Mike … We will tell the truth about the Constitution, about the coup.”
Thursday night, the day after his unilateral oath as interim head of state, Juan Guaido said he wants to organize new elections as soon as possible.
With the support of the United States and other countries, the Venezuelan opposition intends to continue to exert pressure on President Maduro, reelected at the helm of the country last May after a vote boycotted by the opposition.
In a televised interview with Univision, Juan Guaido declared that it was “the beginning of the end” for Nicolas Maduro and that he would work for the delivery of humanitarian aid and the establishment of new economic measures to combat hyperinflation in the country.
“Our challenge is to guarantee the holding of free elections, and we want them as soon as possible, but we live under a dictatorial regime,” he said from a secret location.
Juan Guaido proposed to amnesty the members of the army and the representatives who would disavow Nicolas Maduro. He added that he could extend his offer to members of the government, or even to Maduro himself if he left his job of his own free will.
It has also received support from Canada and right-wing Latin American governments, such as Brazil and Colombia. The European Union and most of its member states, including Spain and France, have called for democratic elections.
In February or March, Canada will host a meeting of the Lima Group, a Pan American organization of 14 states, the vast majority of which have supported Guaido.
On the other hand, Mexico, Turkey, China and Russia supported Nicolas Maduro, with Moscow cautiously warning against any attempt by US military intervention.
Russian private security agents, who are involved in foreign military operations on behalf of the Kremlin, have arrived in Caracas in recent days to strengthen the security of the Venezuelan president, sources close to these paramilitary groups have learned. in Moscow.
One of these sources, close to the Wagner group, which participated in the conflicts in Ukraine and Syria, said that some agents had been present since last year’s presidential election and that others had arrived “recently. “.
A leader of another group, the Cossacks, Yevgeny Shabayev, estimated at around 400 the number of Russian mercenaries deployed in Venezuela.
More than Russians, the outcome of the crisis depends largely on the attitude of the Venezuelan army, which Juan Guaido has called to rally to him, but whose main leaders, including the Minister of Defense Vladimir Padrino have so far rallied behind Nicolas Maduro.
Juan Guaido reiterated his appeal on Friday, calling on the military to “side with the Constitution”.
“Nobody wants a false dialogue, the only thing we want to negotiate is the end of the usurpation,” he said in front of a crowd gathered in a square in the neighborhood of Chacao, a bastion of opposition to Caracas.
At least 14 people have been killed since the start of the new wave of anti-government protests on Tuesday, according to Venezuelan NGOs.
Michelle Bachelet, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, called for the launch of an independent investigation into the use of force against Venezuelan opposition supporters.
Many opponents fear that Juan Guaido will be arrested, like his mentor, Leopoldo Lopez, who has been kept under house arrest since the 2014 protests.