Maduro proposes holding congressional elections early in speech to supporters

Foreign Secretary call with Juan Guaido: 30 January 2019
‘Novaya Gazeta’ reports Russia helped sell Venezuelan gold. Russia’s Central Bank denies it.

03 February, 2019

An anti-government protester wears signs asking for humanitarian aid and a message on his chest that reads in Spanish: "Venezuelans die for lack of medicines".

At noon, thousands of public employees and government supporters began to concentrate on Caracas' downtown Bolivar Avenue.

Opposition supporters take part in a rally against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro's government in Caracas, Venezuela February 2, 2019.

The ruling Socialist party celebrates the 20th anniversary of the rise to power of Hugo Chavez, Maduro's deceased predecessor, on Saturday.

The sighting of two Russian planes in Venezuela this week sparked rumors that Moscow was helping the Nicolas Maduro government ship gold reserves out of the country in an attempt to quickly raise cash.

"We have a plan, well thought out, structured", Guaido said at the Faculty of Economic and Social Sciences in the Central University of Venezuela on Thursday, noting that "it is the sum of many sacrifices".

Guaido, the leader of the opposition-controlled National Assembly, declared himself acting president of Venezuela last week, invoking an obscure constitutional rule to open a rare challenge to Nicolas Maduro's claim to the presidency.

But there have been signs of unrest in the ranks.

On 21 January, a group of National Guard soldiers rose up against Maduro in Caracas.

The mutiny was quickly put down and 27 soldiers were arrested, but it kicked off a week of violent street clashes between civilians and security forces that the United Nations said left 40 dead and 850 arrested.

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Mr Maduro on Friday continued a show of strength that has seen him criss-cross Venezuela to oversee military exercises in recent days as he vows to defend his socialist government no matter the cost.

During the call, the Foreign Secretary said to Juan Guaido that there are many people in the United Kingdom who admire his courage and support what he is doing under the Venezuelan constitution.

On one side of the tussle for control of Venezuela - an OPEC member with the world's largest oil reserves but in dire financial straits - Guaido and Western backers led by the United States are insisting on an immediate transition and fresh elections.

The US, which backs Guaido, has warned of "serious consequences" if Maduro's government harms him.

China has extended more than $60 billion in credit to the South American country over the last decade, but Venezuela still owes Beijing about $20 billion and has been repaying the debt with oil shipments.

"Historically, what dictators do when they believe they are about to lose power, or worry about it, they basically take everything they can carry and they spirit it out of the country to some safe place", said R. Evan Ellis, a Latin America expert at the U.S. Army War College Strategic Studies Institute.

Maduro's adversaries say he has run roughshod over democratic institutions, including the opposition-run congress, and destroyed the once-buoyant economy through a corruption-riddled exchange control system and arbitrary nationalizations.

European Parliament lawmakers recognized Guaido on Thursday as the interim head of state.

In a possible sign of Maduro's weakening support, riot police who had planned on blocking demonstrators from reaching the rallies chose to let them pass in at least three cities, according to Guaido and Reuters witnesses. If and when it comes, we will examine it.

"Let me be very clear: this is no time for dialogue. It's time for Maduro to get out of the way", Bolton's tweet said.

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