The muscle behind Maduro — Venezuelan military


During his speech, he also addressed Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido's act of taking oath as the country's "interim president" as a political coup conspired with the support of the United States.

The State Department has ordered some US government workers to leave Venezuela and said USA citizens there should consider leaving as well.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is set to brief the United Nations Security Council on Saturday and urge members to recognize opposition leader Juan Guaido as the oil-rich nation's legitimate head of state, the U.S. State Department said in a statement.

On Jan. 4 - a day before Guaido was sworn in as national assembly president - foreign ministers from 13 nations of the Lima Group, which doesn't include the USA, said they wouldn't recognize Maduro's second term.

Russia's President Vladimir Putin called Maduro and expressed his support to Venezuela's legitimate government while condemning "external interference" of the U.S. and its allies over "gross" violation of global law. But Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said: "We have no such information".

"I will continue to use the full weight of United States economic and diplomatic power to press for the restoration of Venezuelan democracy", Trump said in his statement on Wednesday.

Several other countries have also declared they will recognise Mr Guaido as Venezuela's interim president.

But Brussels has called on authorities in Caracas to respect the opposition leader's "civil rights, freedom and safety" and indicated it favored a peaceful transition away from Maduro.

Most military top brass are torn between "following Maduro at the risk of going down with him" and "saving their own skins", said Salamanca.

Maduro has been increasingly accused of undemocratic behavior by his opponents, and has presided over skyrocketing inflation, a collapsing economy and widespread shortages of basic goods.

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Cuba, however, sprang to the defence of its socialist ally, expressing "solidarity" with Maduro while Mexico extended lukewarm support to him.

The watershed moment was President Donald Trump's stunning remark in August 2017 from the steps of his New Jersey golf club that a "military option" was on the table to deal with the Venezuelan crisis.

Both Guaido, who has not appeared in public since mass anti-government protests on Wednesday, and Maduro were scheduled to hold news conferences on Friday.

Lawmakers in Russian Federation, which has close relations with Venezuela, are sharply critical of Trump's recognition of Guaido.

However, Guaido still lacks the "recognition by senior elements of the military" necessary to remove the president and hence "Maduro's fall does not appear imminent".

The situation in Venezuela has the world's major powers quickly picking sides.

Maduro's claims the United States has a $120-million fund for "buying" Venezuelan officers.

A defiant Maduro called home all Venezuelan diplomats from the USA and closed its embassy in Washington on Thursday, a day after ordering all US diplomats out of the country by the weekend.

Foreign Minister and Deputy PM Behgjet Pacolli wrote on Thursday: "On behalf of the people and government of Kosovo to Juan Guaido and the people of Venezuela: we wish you all the best in your path to restore democracy and we stand with you until #Libertad is restored".