Maduro pleads with Americans to prevent 'Vietnam in Latin America'

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31 January, 2019

The fight for control of Venezuela intensified on Wednesday as the government pushed a probe that may lead to the arrest of opposition leader and self-declared interim president Juan Guaido who called for new street protests.

The Supreme Court, stacked with Maduro loyalists, has approved a preliminary investigation into Guaido's activities.

Guaido heads the opposition-controlled National Assembly and has proclaimed himself Venezuela's interim president.

"I don't underestimate the threat of persecution at the moment, but here we are", he said.

He added that Russian President Vladimir Putin had promised him more economic and military support during phone talks last week.

Earlier Tuesday, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo certified that Guaido had authority to take control of bank accounts that Venezuela's government has in the Federal Reserve Bank of NY or any other U.S. -insured banks.

"This certification will help Venezuela's legitimate government safeguard those assets for the benefit of the Venezuelan people", State Department spokesman Robert Palladino said in a statement. He's since been recognized by two dozen states including the U.S. which says it's going to funnel Venezuela state oil payments his way.

Millions have been left in poverty, while 2.3 million more have fled the country, unleashing a migration crisis in South America.

Maduro called the sanctions "criminal" and vowed to challenge the United States in court. "I only ask for respect for Venezuela and I need your support to avoid a war like Vietnam".

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This decision had been taken as part of a deal reached by the Lima Group aimed at countering the Venezuelan government, the official added, as cited by the Republic news outlet on Wednesday. The opposition argues Maduro's re-election last May was a sham.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro called on the people in the USA to deter the Trump administration from putting boots on the ground in Venezuela, warning that any intervention would backfire leading to new Vietnam-like disaster.

Describing himself as an admirer of United States history, Maduro said that he hopes that reasonable USA citizens will prevail, adding that America "is a great country, and it is much more than Donald Trump".

Despite alleging Trump wanted him dead, Maduro said he was ready to meet him "wherever he wants", but thought the prospect unlikely given what he described as attempts by Trump's advisers to prevent it.

"If something happens to me one day, Donald Trump and Colombian President Ivan Duque will bear responsibility", Maduro said of his right-wing foes.

After waves of daily protests in recent years failed to dislodge Maduro, the opposition has adopted a different strategy, said opposition leader and lawmaker Juan Andres Mejia, which is to demonstrate the will to protest without raising expectations among supporters or provoking the government into a violent response.

Sources told Reuters private military contractors who do secret missions for Moscow were in Venezuela last week.

The embattled leader is accusing the United States of leading an open coup to oust him and exploit Venezuela's oil reserves, the largest in the world.

According to a study conducted in early January 2019 by the local polling firm Hinterlaces, 86 percent of Venezuelans would disagree with worldwide military intervention.

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