U.S. rallies support for Guaido, Maduro criticizes U.S. intervention
Updated 14:44, 31-Jan-2019

‍U.S. Vice President Mike Pence plans to head to Miami on Friday, home to the country's largest community of Venezuelan exiles, to rally support for the opposition ahead of Venezuelan protests against President Nicolas Maduro, a White House official said.

Pence, who has helped lead White House efforts to prop up the self-declared president Juan Guaido, will be joined by fellow Republicans including Florida senators Marco Rubio and Rick Scott.

Pence will meet with Venezuelans who fled the country out of political causes, the White House official said, and he will later give formal remarks. 

Guaido's U.S. representative Carlos Vecchio, who has been meeting with White House officials to discuss taking control of Venezuelan assets from the Maduro government, is also expected to attend the Miami event, the White House said.

The White House earlier imposed stiff sanctions on Venezuela's oil exports to the U.S., aiming to increase pressure on Maduro's government.


It also warned traders on Wednesday not to deal in Venezuelan gold or oil.

Also on Wednesday, U.S. President Donald Trump spoke with Guaido on the phone, reaffirming the U.S. support to the Venezuelan opposition leader.

Both sides agreed to maintain regular communication after Venezuelan authorities opened an investigation that could lead to Guaido's arrest.

Maduro's response 

Maduro said he is a victim of a U.S.-led "economic war" aimed at ousting him from power.

While blasting Guaido's move of self-declaring as the interim president as unconstitutional, Maduro did say he is prepared to hold negotiations with Guaido and support early parliamentary elections, in an interview with Russia's state news agency RIA Novosti.

In the interview, Maduro also accused Trump of ordering his assassination.

According to Russian media outlet RT, shortly after the interview, Maduro posted a 4-minute video in Spanish with English subtitles on his official Facebook page, calling on the US people to deter the Trump administration from putting boots on the ground in Venezuela.

He also warned that any intervention would backfire leading to new Vietnam-like disaster.

On the same day, Maduro paid a visit to Tiuna Fort, the country's main military garrison in southwestern Caracas.

Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro gestures during a meeting with soldiers at a military base in Caracas, Venezuela, January 30, 2019. /Reuters Photo

Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro gestures during a meeting with soldiers at a military base in Caracas, Venezuela, January 30, 2019. /Reuters Photo

During the visit, he slammed a group of military deserters which he said aimed to sow division among the country's army.

The deserters are now "mercenaries of the Colombian oligarchy" looking to undermine the armed forces' loyalty to the government, said Maduro.

Addressing some 2,000 soldiers, Maduro asked if they were willing to surrender to "imperialist" pressure, to which they answered "No".

He called for a "military leadership for peace, to defend the Constitution".

(With input from Xinhua)

Source(s): Reuters