U.S. in direct contact with Venezuelan military, urging defections

U.S. in direct contact with Venezuelan military, urging defections

'We have been threatened by the United States empire, ' said Venezuela's embattled president Nicolás Maduro.

The US military is prepared to "protect" US personnel and diplomatic facilities in Venezuela if needed, the admiral in charge of American forces in South America says.

Venezuela, already crippled by Maduro's economic policies, was plunged in political turmoil previous year when he greatly reduced the power of the opposition-controlled National Assembly and created a parallel parliament that gave more control to regions of the country where he is more popular. His press conference in Caracas was twice interrupted by power cuts, which have become common in the capital.

Two US trucks carrying food and medical supplies arrived at Venezuela's border this afternoon, according to a US official in the Colombian border town of Cucuta.

More than forty nations including the United States, major European powers and most Latin American countries have recognized Guaido as the country's rightful head of state.

The EU-backed global contact group on Venezuela in its inaugural meeting in the Uruguayan capital of Montevideo this week said overly forceful intervention could aggravate the crisis. It's a message of humiliation to the people.

Under Maduro's rule, Venezuela has endured one of the deepest economic collapses in recent history, with hyperinflation and ever-worsening shortages.

Maduro, who enjoys the support of China and Russian Federation, rebuffed calls to let the aid into the country on Friday, local time, in a dueling news conference in Caracas.

"We're going to open a humanitarian corridor and the doors to freedom", he told journalists.

Guaido, who heads the opposition-led National Assembly, declared himself Venezuela's legitimate ruler on January 23. According to him, at least 2 million people have signed letter demanding that the United States stop interfering in Venezuela's internal affairs.

Poland to buy US rocket system for $414 million
Poland to buy US rocket system for $414 million

Last month, the 35-year-old Guaido was named leader of the opposition-controlled National Assembly.

Maduro accuses Trump of "disrupting noble dialogue initiatives", which were promoted by Uruguay and Mexico and backed by the Caribbean Community (CARICOM).

'The revolution is more alive than ever, ' Maduro said.

Turning his ire on the Contact Group, Maduro fumed: "You don't listen to the truth in Venezuela".

The Contact Group had urged Maduro to allow in aid and said it would send a mission to Venezuela to discuss how to "establish the necessary guarantees for a credible electoral process, as soon as possible".

"I propose early elections to the National Assembly, and I will ratify them", Maduro told reporters, adding that he would like to "see people voting for a new National Assembly that will help the country and contribute to its stabilisation".

"The body has usurped numerous constitutional powers of the legitimate National Assembly and embodies Maduro's destruction of democratic institutions", Abrams told reporters.

This immediate assistance would help address the greatest needs identified by Interim President Guaidó's team: Emergency food and health supplies aimed at reaching the most-vulnerable populations in Venezuela.

Guaido agrees that no-one will come to Maduro's rescue.

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