Venezuela's Guaido and Pence agree to tighten noose on Maduro
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: January 22, 2020 - 7:20am

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

January 22, 2020 - 7:20am

Venezuela intelligence agents searched Guaido offices, opposition says. -- AFP

January 14, 2020 - 11:34am

When Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido called for street protests at the weekend in a bid to rekindle popular outrage against President Nicolas Maduro, only a few hundred people turned up.

It's a far cry from the tens of thousands he mobilized a year ago after declaring himself interim president and winning recognition from more than 50 countries. 

Many, like Jhoan Navarro, would rather turn their attention to the beach these days, glad of a distraction from the seemingly unending political standoff which they say has brought little change to their lives.

Navarro on Sunday made the hour's journey north from Caracas to Camuri Chico beach on the Caribbean coast with his wife and daughter "for a change of air, to clear our minds."

"When I have a problem with my wife we work it out together, but we know that neither Maduro nor Guaido are going to solve our economic problems," said Navarro, bopping to music blaring from the speakers of his car, parked on the edge of the sand. — AFP

January 6, 2020 - 11:12am

The United States on Sunday congratulated opposition leader Juan Guaido on being re- elected Venezuela's national assembly speaker -- despite the vote being hotly disputed and a rival also claiming to have won the post.

"I congratulate Juan Guaido on his re-election as president of the Venezuelan National Assembly and condemn the failed efforts of the former Maduro regime to negate the will of the democratically elected National Assembly," US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said.

"The United States and 57 other countries continue to regard him as the legitimate leader of the National Assembly and thus the legitimate interim president of Venezuela." — AFP

January 6, 2020 - 7:33am

Juan Guaido was re-elected Venezuela's parliament speaker by opposition lawmakers on Sunday in a session held at a newspaper office after police blocked him from entering the National Assembly legislature.

Earlier in the day, rival lawmaker Luis Parra proclaimed himself the new speaker following a vote in parliament that Guaido was unable to attend.

Guaido received the votes of around 100 legislators, including several forced last year into exile or to take shelter in foreign diplomatic missions due to a crackdown by the regime of President Nicolas Maduro that the opposition has branded "political persecution." -- AFP

November 17, 2019 - 10:46am

Thousands of supporters of Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido took to the streets of Caracas on Saturday, demanding the departure of embattled President Nicolas Maduro, but the turnout was far less than expected.

Guaido had hoped to capitalize on the situation in Bolivia, where leftist leader Evo Morales resigned in the face of accusations of election fraud, to deal a death blow to his own political nemesis.

Opposition demonstrators did answer the call — about 5,000 of them marched, according to AFP's crowd estimate. They carried national flags and banners with slogans such as "Maduro out" and "Follow Bolivia's example." — Agence France-Presse

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