Venezuela’s self-proclaimed ‘president’ refuses to rule out US military intervention
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Venezuela’s self-proclaimed ‘president’ refuses to rule out US military intervention

In an exclusive interview with AFP on Friday, the self-proclaimed US-backed ‘interim’ president said he would not ruled out the possibility of authorizing a US military intervention to help force Maduro from power and alleviate a humanitarian crisis, claiming that he sought to establish a “transitional government” and hold “free elections” in the country. The head of Venezuela’s National Assembly said he would do "everything that is necessary... to save human lives," and described the US intervention as "a very controversial subject." The 35-year-old opposition figure called on the Venezuelan army to allow the humanitarian aid, which is currently in a warehouse at the Colombian border, to enter into the country. Maduro had earlier in the day denounced the aid as a show "fabricated by Washington" to justify intervention and vowed to block the cargos. "The package is very nice on the outside: humanitarian aid. But on the inside it brings the poison of humiliation," Maduro said. "It tries to cover up what is the biggest crime committed, the crime of stealing resources through the blockade and the sanctions of the United States government on Venezuela." The Venezuelan president also vowed to “defeat the US coup attempt,” saying Venezuelans are united in the face of American attempts to undermine the country’s sovereignty. In the interview, Guaido called on his supporters to stay in the streets and protest until the “usurper” Maduro allows the convoy with US-sent aid to cross into Venezuela. The opposition leader also rejected the Venezuelan government’s offer for talks and said he was not willing to “participate in fake dialogues.” Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza said a day earlier that Caracas was ready to sit at the negotiating table with the opposition “within the next 15 day,” and resolve the political crisis in the South American country. US expecting military defections  Meanwhile, a senior White House official revealed on Friday that the US was holding direct communications with Venezuela’s military personnel, urging them to abandon President Maduro. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told Reuters that the US administration had called on members of the Venezuelan army to switch their allegiance in exchange for sanctions relief or they would face stronger penalties. The official declined to provide details as to what level the conversations were being held but said they are “very, very limited.” The move comes as members of Venezuela’s army have widely expressed loyalty to president Maduro saying they will give their lives to defend their homeland. Venezuela has been in political turmoil in the past couple of weeks, with the opposition blaming the country’s President Maduro over an ailing economy, hyperinflation, power cuts, and shortages of basic items, urging him to resign. Maduro has accused Washington of waging an economic war against Caracas and imposing sanctions on his government. Political crisis deepened in the South American country on January 23, when opposition figure Juan Guaido, a lawmaker who leads the defunct National Assembly, proclaimed himself the “interim president” until new elections and accused Maduro’s government as being illegitimate. US President Donald Trump was quick in officially recognizing him as such, announcing sanctions on Venezuela’s oil industry. Besides the US, other major Western powers such as the UK, France, Spain and Germany have recognized Guaido as “interim president.” Russia, China, Turkey and Iran are some of the countries that have thrown their support behind Maduro. China calls for peaceful settlement In a statement issued late on Friday, the Chinese foreign ministry said Venezuela should resolve its political crisis via peaceful talks and that Beijing supported the international community's efforts in this regard. The ministry said China supported the efforts of the international community on the peaceful settlement of the Venezuela issue and expressed hope that all parties would continue to play a constructive role. "Venezuela's affairs should be resolved by its people within the framework of the constitution and the law through peaceful dialogue and political channels," the statement said. "Only this way can Venezuela realizing lasting stability." In a meeting in the Uruguayan capital of Montevideo this week, the International Contact Group (GCI), which includes European and Latin American countries, also stated that all sides needed to find a “peaceful, democratic” way out of the situation “without the use of force.”

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