Putin supports legitimate Venezuelan authorities

With Venezuela convulsed by crisis, Trump's hawks take dramatic turn

U.S. diplomats Thursday were restricted to three affluent areas of Caracas and the State Department ordered non-essential personnel at the U.S. Embassy to leave the country, a sign of the stark security concerns around them as they contend with the order of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro to depart by Sunday.

The United States said it was ignoring the order as it did not believe Maduro was still president and instead recognized as interim leader Juan Guaido, the opposition head of the National Assembly.

Maduro reacted by cutting all ties with the US and ordering American diplomats to leave the country within 72 hours. Last week 17 Latin American countries, as well as the U.S., Canada and 28 member states of the European Union, declared Maduro a "dictator".

Washington recognised Juan Guaido as the country's interim president earlier this week, angering Mr Maduro who has retaliated by threatening to expel U.S. diplomats from the country.

The number of nations supporting Guaido is growing, while Russian Federation and China led the drive to try to keep the leftist Maduro in power. "It's not a war between Venezuelans that will solve our problems", he said. That prompted Maduro to sever relations with Washington.

"The United States does not recognize the Maduro regime as the government of Venezuela".

Asked if would consider a military option, Trump said: "We're not considering anything but all options on the table".

U.S. vice-president Mike Pence stated that the USA would use "the full weight of our diplomatic and economic pressure" against the Maduro regime.

Mexico, however, stood apart, saying it recognizes "the authorities elected in accordance with the Venezuelan constitution", seen as a lukewarm nod to Maduro.

In the weeks that followed, Trump went on to strongly condemn Maduro in his address to the U.N. General Assembly as well as quietly press aides and some Latin American leaders about a military invasion of the country.

Russian President Vladimir Putin called the foreign interference in Venezuela's internal affairs a serious violation of global law.

"[Simón ] Bolívar used to curse against soldiers who give their back to the people", he said in reference to Venezuela's independence hero.

He has proposed an amnesty for members of the military, but said members of the Maduro government who committed human rights violations should be punished. While Thursday's protest drew tens of thousands to the streets and over a dozen nations in the region pledged support, the military's backing is crucial.

Though many rank-and-file troops suffer the same hardships as countless other Venezuelans when it comes to meeting basic needs like feeding their families, Maduro has worked to cement their support with bonuses and other special benefits.

The father of the opposition leader who has declared himself the rightful leader of Venezuela has called for the all-powerful military to drop their allegiance to President Maduro.

The key people in this crisis are the security forces, like the police and army.

Sarfatti is part of the Venezuelan diaspora in Canada looking anxiously at the political turmoil in their home country.

Others inside Venezuela were being heavily watched by intelligence agencies, and all were concerned about tipping off the government.

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