Venezuela opposition rally to keep up pressure on Maduro

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Guaido argues that Maduro was re-elected in a sham election previous year, and is invoking two articles of Venezuela's constitution that he says allow him as the leader of the national assembly to assume the presidency and call elections when the current president is holding power illegitimately.

During the talks with Venezuelan diplomats on Tuesday, Pence said that Washington strongly supports the country's National Assembly and self-declared interim President Juan Guaido. Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has dismissed the call as an unacceptable ultimatum.

Maduro has retained the support of powerful allies, including Russian Federation and China, but he is growing increasingly isolated as more nations back Guaido. Moreover, Pence said in a video message earlier this week that the U.S. government supported Guaido's "courageous decision ... to assert that body's constitutional powers, declare Maduro an usurper and call for the establishment of a transitional government".

Guaido said he was evaluating how to take control of state-run oil firm PDVSA's US unit Citgo, Venezuela's biggest foreign asset, as the Trump administration tries to use the company as leverage to topple Maduro.

Maduro frequently accuses the opposition, Colombia and the United States of backing coups or assassination attempts.

Guaido does not yet control any of the state's functions, which remain loyal to Maduro despite the opposition's calls for defections.

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Mr Maduro, who began a second term last month after disputed 2018 elections, has said he would be ready for talks with the opposition and possibly third-country mediation. "My advice to bankers, brokers, traders, facilitators, and other businesses: don't deal in gold, oil, or other Venezuelan commodities being stolen from the Venezuelan people by the Maduro mafia, " Bolton said in a tweet.

"We're in a historic battle", Maduro told several hundred troops standing in formation around armoured vehicles.

Opposition politician Gilbert Caro shouts "Free elections" in a walk out against President Nicolas Maduro, in Caracas, Venezuela. He said they had with them two AK-47 rifles, two satellite phones and 500 bracelets bearing the symbol of Operation Consti-tution, a political group dedicated to toppling Maduro. Guaido led a peaceful demonstration Wednesday with residents stepping out of their homes and workplaces for two hours. "We do not consider him as head of state, we don't recognize him as such".

He has the support of the United States and a dozen Latin American countries, while the European Parliament also said on Thursday it was recognizing him as interim president.

"Once more they are playing the intimidation game", Guaido said. "We will stand firm", Guaido tweeted.

Guaido has promised a transitional government and free elections to end the rule of the socialist Maduro regime, which has overseen the once-wealthy oil nation's descent into economic collapse and a humanitarian crisis.

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