Venezuela's opposition party continued to push to isolate the country's disputed president Nicolas Maduro, as an increasing number of countries declared their support for interim leader Juan Guaido Thursday.
Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino, a general, declared the 56-year-old Maduro "the legitimate president" on Thursday and vowed to defend his authority against an attempted "coup d'etat".
The United States is seeking to ensure that Venezuelan oil revenue goes to opposition leader and self-declared interim president Juan Guaido, and to cut off money from increasingly isolated President Nicolas Maduro, Reuters reports, citing a top U.S. official.
"We are paying close attention to the current situation in Venezuela and are calling on all parties to remain rational and calm, and to seek a political resolution to Venezuela's problem through peaceful dialogue within Venezuela's constitutional framework", Hua added.
Canada said the suffering of Venezuelans would only worsen should Maduro continue to cling to power.
President Donald Trump's administration has spearheaded the worldwide pressure on Maduro, who accuses Washington of being behind an attempted "coup", by declaring his regime "illegitimate".
The most immediate action by Washington likely would be enhanced sanctions against members of Maduro's government.
State Department officials have not answered questions on how many U.S. personnel remain in Venezuela.
Though many rank-and-file troops suffer the same hardships as countless other Venezuelans when it comes to meeting basic needs like feeding their families, Maduro has worked to cement their support with bonuses and other special benefits.More news: US Senate votes down two bills to end government shutdown
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Some 2.3 million people have fled the country since 2015, according to the United Nations.
Amid deadly political clashes in the crisis-torn country, the State Department said that USA citizens "should strongly consider departing Venezuela".
Maduro, in a fiery speech on Wednesday, said he was cutting off diplomatic relations with the United States for instigating a "coup" against him. Russia's Foreign Ministry warned the United States against any military intervention, saying such a move would have "catastrophic" consequences. Beijing and Moscow have extensive economic interests, having loaned Caracas billions of dollars. Russia, China, Iran, Syria, Cuba and Turkey have voiced their backing for Maduro's government.
Bolton has also worked with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to form a united front within the administration, needed to overcome resistance from career State Department diplomats.
His ascent was greeted with excitement by investors holding Venezuela and state oil company PDVSA bonds, which hit their highest level since 2017 despite being nearly entirely in default. The country's oil-based economy, which is wracked by hyperinflation, has collapsed.
Reuters is reporting that private military contractors working on behalf of Russian Federation are in Venezuela to help embattled socialist President Nicolas Maduro strengthen security amid opposition protests and a competing claim to leadership.
In a video addressing the military earlier this week, Guiado said the constitution requires them to disavow Maduro after his May 2018 re-election, which was widely condemned by the global community because his main opponents were banned from running.
Counter protests also have been organized by the Venezuelan government, which has accused the opposition of provoking violence.