US Vice President Mike Pence (R) and Venezuelan opposition leader and self-declared acting president Juan Guaido, take part in a meeting with Foreign Ministers of the Lima Group at Colombia's Foreign Affairs Ministry in Bogota, on February 25, 2019. US Vice President Mike Pence passed on a message from Donald Trump to Venezuela's opposition leader Juan Guaido on Monday, telling him "we are with you 100 percent." Pence and Guaido met in Colombia's capital during a meeting of regional allies to discuss their next move in response to the crisis in Venezuela.
AFP/Diana Sanchez
Venezuela's Guaido and Pence agree to tighten noose on Maduro
Hector Velasco (Agence France-Presse) - February 26, 2019 - 9:37am

BOGOTA, Colombia — US Vice President Mike Pence and Venezuela opposition leader Juan Guaido agreed on a strategy to tighten the noose around President Nicolas Maduro following a meeting with regional allies in Colombia on Monday.

"We hope for a peaceful transition to democracy but President Trump has made it clear: all options are on the table," said Pence, who passed on Trump's "100 percent" support to Guaido.

The meeting came after four people were killed and hundreds injured as Guaido supporters clashed with Venezuelan security forces on the borders with Colombia and Brazil over the weekend in a thwarted bid to bring in humanitarian aid.

The Lima Group -- made up of Latin American countries and Canada -- met in Bogota and said it would ask the International Criminal Court to declare "the violence of Maduro's criminal regime against the civilian population and the negation of access to international aide as a crime against humanity."

Guaido warned that "indulging" Maduro "would be a threat to all of America," while Colombia President Ivan Duque called for "more powerful and effective" pressure on the socialist leader.

However, the Lima Group rejected the use of force to achieve a democratic transition.

The US requested an urgent meeting of the UN Security Council and imposed new sanctions on the governors of four Venezuelan states aligned with Maduro for impeding aid shipments.

Guaido, the 35-year-old leader of Venezuela's National Assembly, declared himself acting president in January after the opposition-controlled legislature concluded that Maduro was fraudulently re-elected.

Some 50 countries recognize him as Venezuela's legitimate interim president.

'Victory'

Despite the defection of more than 150 soldiers to Guaido's side, Maduro's military blockade at Venezuela's borders held firm and prevented the aid from entering.

Maduro's right-hand man Diosdado Cabello proclaimed "victory" on Sunday.

"Not a single one of those trucks with aid got through," Cabello said at a rally in the border town of Tachira.

Humanitarian aid has become the focal point in Guaido's challenge to Maduro's authority.

Venezuela is suffering a humanitarian crisis marked by shortages of food and medicine -- problems exacerbated by hyperinflation, which has rendered salaries and savings worthless.

Guaido says 300,000 people face death if aid supplies are not urgently brought in, but Maduro claims it is a smokescreen to cover a US invasion.

Guaido accused Maduro's government of turning the country into "the sanctuary of terrorists."

"The reality in Venezuela is we have a regime that is against its people," he said on Sunday.

"Today, we need to find a way to solve this crisis."

Having defied a government travel ban to got to Colombia on Friday, Guaido said he would return home "this week," with the Lima Group warning he faced "serious and credible threats" from the regime.

At the opening of the Lima Group meeting, Colombia's Foreign Minister Carlos Holmes Trujillo said the representatives were "trying hard to facilitate the opening of a humanitarian corridor."

Pence announced $56 million in funds for countries hosting Venezuelan migrants.

The United Nations says 2.7 million Venezuelans have fled the country since 2015.

Pence also invited Lima Group members to transfer assets of Venezuela's state oil company PDVSA to Guaido to keep them away from "Maduro's inner circle."

Eurasia Group analyst Risa Grais-Targow said US sanctions "will make it difficult for President Nicolas Maduro to retain power; however, an eventual transition is contingent on both continued opposition unity and viable off-ramps for regime insiders."

The Lima Group of 14 nations is not united in its approach to the Venezuela crisis and Mexico, Costa Rica, Guyana and Saint Lucia skipped the meeting.

But Guaido rallied those present, saying: "It's important to recover democracy in Venezuela because those usurping power today are a threat to the continent's stability."

'No consensus'

Bolivia's President Evo Morales, a Maduro ally, called on the Lima Group to "seek a solution through dialogue."

"In the Lima Group, the consensus is that Maduro must be removed, but there is no consensus on how to do that," political scientist Laura Gil told AFP.

Maduro seems to have won this round in the power struggle, but on Sunday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he was confident that "Maduro's days are numbered."

More than 300 people were injured during the clashes between security forces and protesters at crossings on the Colombian and Brazilian borders.

A 14-year-old boy was among those killed Saturday near the Brazilian border.

NGO Foro Penal said on Monday that 58 people had suffered gunshot wounds.

The European Union on Sunday condemned the government's use of violence and armed civilians to block the aid entry, while UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said he was "shocked and saddened" by the civilian deaths.

There were sporadic clashes between hooded protesters and police, supported by armed civilian "colectivos" on Sunday on the Venezuelan side of the border.

Scores of Venezuelans who managed to slip across the border to get aid were trapped there as Venezuelan authorities closed it.

JUAN GUIADO MIKE PENCE NICOLAS MADURO UNITED STATES VENEZUELA
As It Happens
LATEST UPDATE: May 21, 2019 - 3:46pm

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro accuses Colombia of being behind an "attack" with an explosive-laden drone he said targeted him on Saturday (Sunday, Manila time).

Speaking shortly after state television showed him cut off mid-speech in front of a Caracas military parade by a bang, Maduro says a "flying object exploded in front of me" and blamed the incident on Colombia's President Juan Manuel Santos.

"It was an attack to kill me, they tried to assassinate me today," Maduro says in a state broadcast. "I have no doubt that the name Juan Manuel Santos is behind this attack." — AFP

May 21, 2019 - 3:46pm

Venezuela's Constituent Assembly, made up entirely of loyalists of President Nicolas Maduro, announces it has extended its mandate to rule the crisis-stricken country for another 18 months until the end of 2020.

The move comes a year after the contested re-election of embattled Maduro, locked in a struggle for power with Juan Guaido, who has declared himself interim president and is backed by more than 50 countries including the United States. — AFP

May 6, 2019 - 6:58pm

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro is ready to see off any attack from the United States, his foreign minister Jorge Arreaza says Monday in Moscow, after a meeting with Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov. 

"We are ready for all scenarios. The first is diplomacy, dialogue, peace," Arreaza told a press conference. 

But if Washington "opts for the military path, we have an armed force, a people, a national guard that will be able not just to resist and fight, but also to win," he added. 

The statement comes following a failed, US-backed bid by the Venezuelan opposition to spur a military uprising.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has blamed the failure on Russia, a key backer of Maduro. 

Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov has meanwhile called on Washington to "abandon its irresponsible plans" in the crisis-wracked country.

The push and shove set the stage for a Pompeo meeting with Lavrov in Finland this week. -- Agence France-Presse
 

May 4, 2019 - 6:39pm

Opposition leader Juan Guaido will make a fresh bid to rally Venezuela's armed forces behind him with protests at military bases in the crisis-hit country.

The protest call by Guaido -- the head of the National Assembly legislature, who is recognized as interim president by more than 50 countries -- comes just days after he urged the military to rise up against the socialist president, Nicolas Maduro. — AFP

May 3, 2019 - 5:24pm

Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido has called for peaceful demonstrations at army bases, days after a military uprising in support of his bid to oust President Nicolas Maduro fizzled out.

The latest appeal came after Maduro called on the armed forces of the crisis-wracked nation to oppose "any coup plotter", as the embattled leader dug in his heels in the face of ongoing protests and international pressure, especially from the United States. — AFP

May 2, 2019 - 9:21pm

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro on Thursday calls on the armed forces to oppose "any coup plotter" after a failed military uprising by forces supporting opposition leader Juan Guaido.

"Yes, we are in combat, keep morale high in this fight to disarm any traitor, any coup plotter," Maduro said at a televised event with the military high command in which he appeared surrounded by soldiers. — Agence France-Presse

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