Venezuela in crisis: All the latest updates

Venezuela has plunged into a major political crisis amid a growing row over President Nicolas Maduro’s future as the country’s leader. 

Maduro started a second term on January 10, following a widely boycotted election last year that many foreign governments refused to recognise.

On January 23, Juan Guaido, leader of the opposition-controlled National Assembly, declared himself interim president.

Shortly after Guaido took an oath swearing himself in, US President Donald Trump publicly recognised him as the country’s leader. 

Maduro accused Guaido of staging a coup and ordered his arrest.

Here are all the latest updates as of Friday, March 8:

Venezuela shuts schools, suspends working day as blackout continues

Venezuela’s government shut schools and suspended working hours on Friday after the capital Caracas and other major cities awoke without electricity due to a problem that struck the South American country’s main hydroelectric plant on Thursday.

President Nicolas Maduro “has suspended classes and the working day today in order to facilitate the efforts for the recovery of electric service in the country,” wrote Vice President Delcy Rodríguez on her Twitter account.

UN opens first reception centre for Venezuelans in Colombia

The UN refugee agency said it is opening its first reception centre in Colombia to support people leaving neighbouring Venezuela.

UNHCR spokesman Andrej Mahecic said the centre set up along with Colombian authorities in the border city of Maicao will open on Friday and can initially take in up to 350 people, with “possibility to grow” in the future.

The Geneva-based agency said on Friday that hundreds of people including children, the elderly and those with medical conditions are “forced to live on the streets” because of a lack of shelter in Maicao.

UNHCR said 2.7 million Venezuelans have left their crisis-ridden country since 2015, and Colombia is the country most-affected by the outflow, with more than 1.1 million.

China warns of repeating history’s mistakes with Venezuela

The Chinese government’s top diplomat issued a stern warning on Friday against interfering in Venezuela and imposing sanctions, saying history offered a clear lesson about not “following the same old disastrous road”.

China has repeatedly called for outsiders not to interfere in Venezuela’s internal affairs and has stuck by embattled President Nicolas Maduro.

State Councillor Wang Yi, responding to a question on whether China still recognised Maduro or had contacts with the opposition, said the sovereignty and independence of Latin American countries should be respected.

Thursday, March 7

Venezuela hit by major blackout, government blames act of ‘sabotage’

A major power outage hit crisis-stricken Venezuela on Thursday, according to Reuters witnesses, a problem the government of President Nicolas Maduro quickly blamed on “sabotage” at a hydroelectric dam that provides much of the country’s power.

Electricity outages are frequent in Venezuela, where the economy is collapsing under hyperinflation, with chronic shortages of food and medicine and a mass emigration of more than three million citizens.

Critics say corruption and under investment have left the country’s power grid unable to function, while Maduro said the problems are intentionally created by political adversaries.

Local media and Twitter users reported that the outage was affecting the capital of Caracas as well as 15 of the country’s 23 states. A reporter for state television described it as a “national blackout.”

Trump’s Venezuela envoy vows sanctions on banks supporting Maduro

US President Donald Trump’s special representative for Venezuela pledged on Thursday that Washington would “expand the net” of sanctions on the South American nation, including more on banks supporting President Nicolas Maduro’s government.

“There will be more sanctions on financial institutions that are carrying out the orders of the Maduro regime,” Elliott Abrams told a US Senate subcommittee hearing.

Venezuela opposition leader says government ‘threatening’ Germany

Venezuela’s opposition leader Juan Guaido said in an interview the expulsion of the German ambassador by Caracas was a threat against Germany, Der Spiegel magazine reported.

“This action represents a threat against Germany,” Guaido was quoted as saying.

German ambassador Daniel Kriener was expelled two days after he and diplomats from other embassies welcomed home Guaido at Caracas’ airport.

The opposition leader also urged European countries to increase sanctions against the government of Nicolas Maduro. 

EU disappointed with Venezuela’s expulsion of German envoy

The European Union said it was disappointed that Venezuela’s government has ordered the German ambassador to leave the country after he expressed support for opposition leader Juan Guaido.

European Commission spokeswoman Maja Kocijancic said on Thursday that the EU wants to continue its dialogue with all political forces in the country.

“Despite the tense and complex political context, the EU has been keen to maintain lines of communication with all key parties including the government,” Kocijancic said. “In that respect, the EU hopes that this decision can be reconsidered.”

German minister: Envoys helped prevent Guaido arrest

Germany’s foreign minister says the presence of foreign diplomats at the Caracas airport on Monday helped prevent the arrest of Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido.

Heiko Maas said on Thursday he expressly asked Germany’s ambassador to Venezuela, Daniel Kriener, to join other envoys at the airport.

He told reporters in Berlin on that “there was information that [Guaido] was meant to be arrested there, and I think the presence of various ambassadors contributed to helping prevent this arrest.”

On Wednesday, the government of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro announced it was giving Kriener 48 hours to leave the country, a move seen as a response to Germany’s support for Guaido.

Wednesday, March 6

Venezuela releases US journalist after day in custody 

A US journalist detained by Venezuelan security services was released after more than 12 hours in custody.

Venezuelan freed American reporter Cody Weddle following his arrest in the morning.

Miami television station WPLG Local 10, one of the outlets for which Weddle worked, said he was at the main Caracas-area airport waiting for a US-bound flight. 

Weddle, who worked in Venezuela for several years as a correspondent for a variety of US media, “has been released after being detained by Venezuelan authorities”, the network announced on Twitter. 

The release was also announced by Senator Marco Rubio, a strident critic of  Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.

“We know that members of the military intelligence directorate appeared at his home this morning to ask him questions about his coverage on the border,” said Carlos Correa from the NGO Espacio Publico.

US demands release of American journalist

The US demands the “immediate release” of an American journalist who is reported to have been detained in Caracas.

Cody Weddle has worked in Venezuela for several years as a correspondent for a variety of US media, including ABC News and the Miami Herald.

Kimberly Breier, the US assistant secretary of state for hemispheric affairs, says that the State Department is “aware of and deeply concerned” by the reports that an American journalist was detained.

PDVSA declares maritime emergency: Reuters

Venezuela’s state-run oil company PDVSA declared a maritime emergency on Tuesday after German shipping firm Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement (BSM) disclosed plans to return ten tankers over unpaid fees, according to a document from the state-run firm, Reuters reports. 

BSM, operator of a portion of PDVSA’s tanker fleet, last month confirmed its crews would abandon the tankers Rio Arauca and Parnaso, which were held in Portugal over unpaid fees to a shipyard and port authority.

A third vessel also operated by BSM, the Icaro, separately was seised in Curacao by a group of shipping firms claiming unpaid bills from PDVSA.

US to revoke visas of 77 others tied to Maduro 

The US is set to revoke the visas of 77 people associated with Maduro, US Vice President Mike Pence says, adding to a list of 49 others whose visas were revoked on Friday.

“Today the State Department is announcing that the United States will revoke 77 visas, including many officials of the Maduro regime and their families,” Pence says in a speech.

The US is set to revoke the visas of 77 people associated with Maduro  [File:Luisa Gonzalez/Reuters]

Berlin says expulsion ‘aggravates situation’

Berlin says Venezuela’s expulsion of the German ambassador over his backing of Juan Guaido only aggravated the situation.

“It’s an incomprehensible decision which aggravates the situation,” Germany’s Foreign Minister Heiko Maas says in a statement.

“Our support for Guaido remains unbroken, ambassador Kriener is doing an excellent job,” he adds. 

Venezuela expels German ambassador

The government has given the German ambassador 48 hours to leave the country after he expressed support for Guaido.

Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza tweets a statement saying ambassador Daniel Kriener interfered in Venezuela’s internal affairs and allied himself with “extremist sectors” of the opposition.

Venezuela considers it unacceptable that a foreign diplomat would take on “a public role more appropriate to that of a political leader,” the statement reads.

US puts financial institutions ‘on notice’ on Venezuela transactions

White House national security adviser John Bolton warns foreign banks and other financial institutions that they will face US sanctions for “illegitimate” transactions that benefit Maduro and his network.

“The United States is putting foreign financial institutions on notice that they will face sanctions for being involved in facilitating illegitimate transactions that benefit Nicolas Maduro and his corrupt network,” Bolton says in a statement released by the White House.

National Assembly to discuss the economic crisis

Venezuela’s National Assembly will discuss today the economic crisis hitting the country and the clashes that took place in an indigenous community in Kumarakapay in southern Venezuela, two weeks ago, when humanitarian aid was expected to enter the country.  

Residents say that an indigenous couple were killed and at least 15 people were injured. 

Guaido is also expected to present a report of his tour in South America. 

Michelle Bachelet: Sanctions have worsened the crisis 

Sanctions have “exacerbated” the crisis in Venezuela, the UN human rights chief says, after the United States warned it may expand the measures it has imposed targeting  Nicolas Maduro ‘s government. 

“Venezuela clearly illustrates the way violations of civil and political rights – including failure to uphold fundamental freedoms, and the independence of key institutions – can accentuate a decline of economic and social rights,” rights chief Michelle Bachelet says. 

“This situation has been exacerbated by sanctions, and the resulting current political, economic, social and institutional crisis is alarming … I will be further discussing this human rights situation, among other countries, on March 20,” she adds.

Michelle Bachelet attends a session of the Human Rights Council at the UN in Geneva [Denis Balibouse/Reuters]

Tuesday, March 5

Maduro says he will defeat ‘minority of opportunists and cowards’

Nicolas Maduro said he would defeat a “crazed minority” determined to destabilise the country in his first public comment since Guaido returned to the country.

Maduro called on supporters to attend “anti-imperialist” demonstrations on March 9, coinciding with an opposition march announced by Guaido.

He expressed defiance towards opposition forces, belittling a “minority of opportunists and cowards” and vowing to “stop them in their tracks”.

“The crazed minority continues in their bitterness. We are going to defeat them, be absolutely sure,” said Maduro. 

“We are on the right side of history,” he added, using the same words previously used by Guaido referring to the opposition.

The president says Venezuela is a victim of a US-led economic war and accuses Guaido of leading a coup orchestrated by the American government. He has vowed the opposition leader will “face justice”.

Maduro’s vice president, Delcy Rodriguez, told Russian state media Guaido is “trying to seize power” upon the “direct order” of Washington.

US eyes new sanctions against Venezuela

The US is considering imposing new sanctions on Venezuela to pressure Maduro’s government to give up power, US National Security Adviser John Bolton said.

“We’re looking at new sanctions, new measures to tighten our grip on Maduro’s financial wherewithal, to deny his regime the money that they need to stay in power,” Bolton told Fox Business Network.

Maduro has described opposition to his rule as an attempted coup by the US and its allies.

US envoy: hard to see role for Maduro in Venezuela’s future

Washington’s top envoy for Venezuela, Elliott Abrams, said it was hard to see a role for Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro in the building of a “democratic Venezuela”.

“If he wanted to build a democratic Venezuela, he had the opportunity to do so, but he did not,” Abrams told reporters. “It is extremely difficult to see how he could play a positive role in a democratic election,” he said, adding that it was ultimately up to Venezuelans to decide Maduro’s future role.

Abrams also said that imposing US secondary sanctions against non-US citizens or entities tied to the Maduro government was “clearly a possibility”, although he said a decision had not been made on taking such a step.

Guaido attends a meeting with public employees 

Guaido speaks during a meeting with workers and unions representatives in Caracas.

Al Jazeera’s Manuel Rapalo reporting from Cucuta says Guaido has wasted no time since returning from a tour of several South American countries.

“Guaido is meeting with public sector employees,” Rapalo says. 

“They are a very important group, he sees them as traditionally loyal to President Nicolas Maduro, so the goal here is to win over their support.”

“[One of the] main points that he has been making to these public sector employees … is securing legislation that can guarantee that their jobs will still exist once there is a transitional government in place.”

“He also wants a census, and get an idea of exactly how many public sector employees there are in Venezuela … and he wants to call for a national strike.. to continue this momentum … and continue the pressure against the government of Nicolas Maduro. “

Guaido meets workers and unions representatives at the Colegio de Ingenieros [Carlos Jasso/Reuters]

Nicolas Maduro: Hugo Chavez, you’ll live forever 

Maduro remembers the late President Hugo Chavez.

“Comandante Chavez, six years have passed [since your departure] and it still hurts … thanks to your teachings and your example, today we continue in a permanent struggle against the enemies who tried to silence your voice so many times. You will live forever, in every victory!” Maduro writes on Twitter.

Guaido to meet state workers

Juan Guaido will meet with workers, public employees and unions representatives at the Colegio de Ingenieros (Engineers Association).

“We will meet with our public employees,” Guaido writes on Twitter. 
“We are going to take the first steps to recover our bureaucracy and continue building the capacities inside and outside our country that [will] allow us to stop the usurpation, the transitional government and free elections.”

Cuba remembers Hugo Chavez

Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel remembers Hugo Chavez, who died six years ago.

“The children of the Bolivarian Revolution today pay tribute to him, fighting bravely”, he writes on his Twitter account.

Monday, March 5

UN calls for dialogue 

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is stressing that the only way the political conflict in Venezuela can be resolved is through political dialogue.

UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric notes reports that Juan Guaido returned without incident to Caracas on Monday. 

Dujarric says UN officials “obviously remain very concerned about the situation in Venezuela.”

And he says it’s important that “all political actors in Venezuela and abroad make all efforts to lower tensions.”

Guaido speaks to supporters in Caracas

Juan Guaido is speaking to supporters at a Caracas demonstration after he returned to the country despite warnings he might face arrest.

Guaido is greeted with cheers and applause at the rally of several thousand people in the Las Mercedes neighbourhood in the Venezuelan capital. He tells the demonstrators: “We’re much stronger than ever.”

“Guaido arrives to a hero’s welcome,” Vanessa Neuman a Latin American analyst tells Al Jazeera.

“Guaido [has] done what didn’t seem possible just a few months ago, to unify the Venezuelan opposition, the political parties and the people, to inspire hope … it also really puts the regime on the back foot, they had said they would arrest him, but  … if they arrest him now there will be a massive uprising … and by not arresting him, Maduro looks weaker than ever,” she explains.  

Guaido calls for a march on Saturday to increase pressure on Nicolas Maduro

Juan Guaido reacts during a rally held by his supporters against Nicolas Maduro’s government [Manaure Quintero/Reuters]

Guaido: We’ve entered Venezuela

The opposition leader announces he is already in the country.

We entered Venezuela, we are free citizens, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Already feeling the sun in La Guaira,” he writes on Twitter.

Pence: Guaido must be allowed to reenter Venezuela safely 

Vice President Mike Pence says the safe return of Guaido is a high priority for the US.

“Any threats, violence, or intimidation against him will not be tolerated.” 

Venezuela’s Guaido arrives at Caracas airport: reports 

Guaido has returned to Venezuela after a tour of South American nations, according to local television footage.

“Back in our beloved country! Venezuela, we just passed through immigration and we will now head to where our people are,” he says on Twitter just after arriving.

Several European ambassadors who support his campaign for a change of leadership in Venezuela are at the airport waiting for him.

Guaido supporters gather in Caracas

Flag-waving Venezuelans turns out to await the return of Guaido, who is defying the threat of arrest as he embarks on a renewed push against Maduro.

In a video shared on social networks, Guaido warned that if Maduro’s government “tries to kidnap us … it will be one of the last mistakes it makes.”

“He’s going to enter the country under their noses,” says Maria Garrido, 62, who attends the rally from El Cafetal with a Venezuelan flag.

“That boy has proven to be smarter than the whole government,” she adds.

Antonio Rangel, an unemployed engineer who now sells bread and sweets to support his family, expresses hope for the country.

“The difference is that now we have hope. I’m not tired, I’m not defeated, the only thing I’m tired of is Maduro and his friends,” Rangel tells Al Jazeera. “They need to leave.”

Journalist Hector Antolinez tweets from Caracas: This is the Alfredo Sadel square, [people are here] in support of Juan Guaido. 

Reporting by Erika Fiorucci from Caracas

Guaido says he is on his way home 

Guaido says he is on his way home.

Guaido tweets an audio message and announces he is heading back to Venezuela, though details about his exact whereabouts remains a mystery. 

“Venezuelan brothers, the moment you hear this message, I will be on my way home, our home,” Guaido says.  

US threatens tighter financial restrictions on Cuba

The Trump administration threatens to put additional financial restrictions on Cuba’s military and intelligence services amid the political turmoil in Venezuela.

Maduro welcomes Carnival season

Nicolas Maduro welcomes the Carnival season. 

“I invite the Venezuelan families to enjoy the festivities and the natural beauty that our beloved Venezuela offers us,” he writes on Twitter.

US warns Venezuela ahead of Guaido’s arrival

The United States warns the Venezuelan government of Nicolas Maduro not to take action against  Juan Guaido, who plans to return home on Monday.

US National Security Adviser John Bolton tweets that threats or action against Guaido “will be met with a strong and significant response from the United States and the international community.”

Sunday, March 3

Guaido calls for mass demonstration 

Guaido calls for nationwide demonstrations on Monday to coincide with his planned return to Venezuela.

On Sunday he tweets that Venezuelans should monitor his official announcements and that he would provide details about meeting points for supporters. He says they should gather across the country at 11:00am (3:00 GMT).

Translation: Tomorrow morning, at 11 am [let’s go out to] the streets!

It is in the midst of uncertainty when faith becomes more powerful. # 4MVzlaALaCalle

Russia says it will prevent US military intervention

Russia will do all possible to prevent a US military intervention in Venezuela, the TASS news agency quotes the speaker of Russia’s upper house of parliament as saying on Sunday.

“We are very much concerned that the USA could carry out any provocations to shed blood, to find a cause and reasons for intervention in Venezuela,” Valentina Matvienko tells Venezuelan Vice President Delcy Rodriguez in Moscow.

Saturday, March 2

Guaido says he will return home after Ecuador visit 

Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido says he will return home after a visit to Ecuador and calls for new protests next week against President Nicolas Maduro, whose government has banned him from travelling abroad.

Guaido has spent the past few days touring between Latin American countries to muster support for his campaign to form a transition government and oust Maduro, whom he denounces as an illegitimate usurper.

“I announce my return to the country and I call for mobilisations in all the national territory on Monday and Tuesday,” Guaido wrote on Twitter. 

Read more

Friday, March 1

US revokes visas of 49 Maduro associates

The United States revoked the visas of 49 individuals aligned with Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, the State Department said on Friday.

The State Department said the restrictions applied to “individuals responsible for undermining Venezuela’s democracy” and that the policy would be applied to “numerous” Maduro-aligned officials and their families”.

The move came hours after the US sanctioned six Venezuelan security officials over blocking aid from getting into the country.

Guaido to visit Ecuador on Saturday

Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido will visit Ecuador on Saturday, Ecuadorian President Lenin Moreno said on Friday.

The meeting is part of Guaido’s tour of sympathetic regional allies that also includes meetings with heads of state in Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina. 

TRANSLATION: I have spoken with President Juan Guaido. I have invited him to Ecuador to receive the affection and support of a democracy-loving nation. 

Guaido set to meet Macri in Argentina

Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido will travel to Argentina on Friday to meet President Mauricio Macri, according to Guaido’s press team.

Argentina’s Foreign Ministry confirmed the meeting, saying that Guaido and Macri would hold a press conference on Friday.

Argentina is among the dozens of countries that support Guaido as interim president of Venezuela.

Guaido is currently in Paraguay as part of a whistle-stop tour intended to drum up support in the region and put pressure on Venezuela’s Nicolas Maduro to step down.

Guaido claims 600 military have left Maduro government

Guaido made the claims at a press conference with Ecuador’s president [Jorge Adorno/Reuters]

Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido has said that 600 members of Venezuela’s military have abandoned the government of Nicolas Maduro in recent days.

He made the announcement from the Paraguayan capital, Asuncion, where he was meeting the country’s President Mario Abdo Benitez.

Military support is seen as key to ensuring the stability of Maduro’s rule. It is unclear how many members of the armed forces have defected. 

US discussing Temporary Protected Status for Venezuelans: Abrams

The Trump administration is in the process of discussing proposals to grant Venezuelans Temporary Protected Status (TPS), US Special Envoy for Venezuela Elliott Abrams told reporters on Friday.

While no decision has been made, Abrams said the US will continue to take “appropriate actions” against the government of  President Nicolas Maduro, including restricting travel visas for dozens of Maduro’s associates.

He added that the US did not expect Russia or China to provide significant additional funds to Maduro’s government, but acknowledged that their political support was a “help” to Maduro. 

Abrams also voiced concerns over whether opposition leader Juan Guaido, who is currently in Paraguay, will be able to return safely to Venezuela.

US sanctions six Venezuelan security officials over blocking aid

The US Treasury Department issued fresh Venezuela-related sanctions on Friday against six individuals, according to a statement posted on its website.

The sanctions target individuals associated with the “obstruction of humanitarian aid deliveries into Venezuela”, on February 23.

The United States also targeted Venezuela’s government with new sanctions on Monday and called on allies to freeze the assets of state-owned PDVSA after deadly violence blocked humanitarian aid from reaching the country last weekend.

Venezuela’s Maduro moves an office of state oil company to Moscow: VP

Venezuelan Vice President Delcy Rodriguez said on Friday that President Nicolas Maduro had ordered a European office of state oil company PDVSA to move to Moscow.

Rodriguez made the announcement following talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov at the Russian capital.

Meanwhile, Lavrov said Russia will counteract any attempts to intervene in Venezuela’s domestic affairs.

Lavrov said a close cooperation with Venezuela was gaining “special importance” as the country faced “a frontal attack and a shameless intervention into its internal affairs.”

Thursday, February 28:

Russia and China block US push for UN action on Venezuela

Venezuela Minister of Foreign Affairs Jorge Arreaza speaks about the situation in Venezuela at the UNSC [Shannon Stapleton/Reuters]

Russia and China vetoed on Thursday a US push for the United Nations Security Council to call for free and fair presidential elections in Venezuela and unhindered aid access.

The US draft resolution garnered the minimum nine votes, forcing Russia and China to cast vetoes.

South Africa also voted against the text, while Indonesia, Equatorial Guinea and Ivory Coast abstained.

Guaido plans to return to Caracas ‘despite threats’

Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido said on Thursday he plans to return to Venezuela despite threats against himself and his family, and he plans to work out his return route this weekend.

Speaking to reporters after meeting Brazil’s right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro, Guaido said there was no chance of dialogue with the leftist government of President Nicolas Maduro without discussing elections.

Bolsonaro said during a joint statement with Guaido that he was the hope for restoring a “free, democratic and prosperous Venezuela”.

Guaido said Maduro’s ‘regime’ was weak and lacks support in the country and internationally.

Brazil’s president pledges full support for Guaido

Brazil is one of several regional allies that backs Juan Guaido [Ueslei Marcelino/Reuters]

Brazil President Jair Bolsonaro pledged full support for Venezuelan opposition leader Guaido on Thursday.

Bolsonaro said that he wanted to see a free, democratic and prosperous Venezuela. 

Paraguay says Venezuela’s Guaido to visit on Friday

Paraguay President Mario Abdo said by tweet on Thursday that Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido will visit the country on Friday, as Guaido tries to drum up support in the region and put pressure on Venezuela’s Nicolas Maduro to step down.

TRANSLATION: Tomorrow we will receive a visit from our dear friend, President Juan Guaido in the Lopez Palace.

Wednesday, February 27

US seeks UN vote on Venezuela for Thursday: diplomats

The United States is seeking a vote Thursday at the UN Security Council on a draft resolution calling for “free, fair and credible” elections in Venezuela and free access for humanitarian aid, diplomats said.

Russia, an ally of President Nicolas Maduro’s regime, is likely to use its veto power to oppose the text, which also expresses “deep concern with the violence and excessive use of force by Venezuelan security forces against unarmed, peaceful protesters.”

Guaido to meet Bolsonaro 

Venezuela’s opposition leader Juan Guaido is due to meet Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro in Brasilia late Wednesday, sources from both camps said.

Guaido will travel to the Brazilian capital from Colombia, where he has stayed since Friday despite a travel ban imposed on him by the regime of Venezuela’s socialist leader Nicolas Maduro.

Brazil and Colombia are Guaido allies that have been holding humanitarian aid the National Assembly speaker wants to bring into Venezuela.

Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido speaks during a meeting of the Lima Group in Bogota [Luisa Gonzalez/Reuters]

Maduro, Trump should meet to ‘find common ground’: Venezuela FM

Venezuela’s foreign minister said that the United States was trying to overthrow the government of Nicolas Maduro and that his country had lost $30bn in assets “confiscated” since November 2017 under sanctions.

Jorge Arreaza, addressing the UN Human Rights Council despite a walk-out by dozens of Western envoys, suggested that Maduro and US President Donald Trump meet to “try to find common ground and explain their differences”.

“We’re calling for dialogue, dialogue with the United States – why not between Presidents Maduro and Trump? Why shouldn’t they meet so that they could try to find common ground and explain their differences?”

Read more here.

Venezuela Minister of Foreign Affairs Jorge Arreaza addresses the 40th session of the Human Rights Council at the United Nations [UN/Reuters]

Tuesday, February 26

US ‘to impose more sanctions’ on Venezuela this week and next week

US Special Representative for Venezuela Elliott Abrams said on Tuesday that Washington would impose more sanctions on Caracas this week and next week to bring about additional pressure on the government of President Nicolas Maduro, whose legitimacy Washington has challenged.

Speaking ahead of a Security Council meeting on Venezuela sought by the United States, Abrams said he hoped the UN Security Council will vote this week on a resolution calling for Venezuela to allow the entry of humanitarian assistance into the country.

Abrams denied Russian accusations that the US is preparing for military intervention in Venezuela, but repeated that all options are on the table.

Peru cancelling visas of Venezuelan diplomats at Lima embassy: official

Peru is cancelling the visas of diplomats at the Venezuelan embassy in Lima, and will notify them that they will be in the country illegally starting from March 9, a Peruvian official said on Tuesday.

Deputy Foreign Minister Hugo de Zela said in a broadcast interview with radio station RPP that Peru recognises Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido’s designated ambassador to Peru and will no longer acknowledge embassy officials appointed by Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.

Venezuela opposition’s US envoy asks Trump to increase pressure on Maduro

Carlos Vecchio, the Venezuelan opposition’s envoy to the United States, met US President Donald Trump recently and asked him to increase pressure on socialist President Nicolas Maduro, Vecchio’s office said in a statement on Tuesday.

Mexico president refuses to choose sides in Venezuela conflict

Mexico’s president, asked about recognising Venezuela’s Guaido, urged all parties to seek a peaceful situation to the conflict via dialogue.

Asked about the detention of journalists in Venezuela on Monday, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said he did not want to involve himself in a polarised situation and remained committed to a policy of non-intervention in the affairs of other governments.

Russian official accuses US of preparing military intervention in Venezuela

Russia believes the United States is preparing a military intervention in Venezuela, the RIA news agency cited the secretary of Russia’s Security Council as saying on Tuesday.

Nikolai Patrushev was also cited by the Interfax news agency as saying Russia had agreed to a proposal from Washington to hold consultations on Venezuela, a close ally of Moscow, but the United States had repeatedly postponed them on invented pretexts.

Monday, February 25

Brazil wants non-military pressure on Venezuela 

Brazil’s vice president, retired general Hamilton Mourao, said on Monday that under no circumstances would his country allow the United States to intervene militarily in Venezuela from Brazilian territory.

In an interview with Globo News cable channel, Mourao said Brazil will do all it can to avoid a conflict with neighbouring Venezuela.

He spoke from Bogota, where he attended a meeting of the Lima Group, a bloc of nations from Argentina to Canada dedicated to peaceful resolution of the Venezuelan crisis.

Pence on Venezuela: ‘all options are on the table’

Vice President Mike Pence reiterated the US position on Venezuela on Monday, insisting that a military intervention to force President Nicolas Maduro from power has not been ruled out.

“We hope for a peaceful transition to democracy. But President Trump has made it clear: all options are on the table,” Pence said after meeting with Venezuela’s opposition leader Juan Guaido at a Lima Group gathering in Colombia.

US asks UNSC to meet on Venezuela: diplomats

The United States has asked the United Nations Security Council to meet to discuss the situation in Venezuela on Tuesday, said diplomats after Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s troops repelled foreign aid convoys at the weekend.

The United States has been pushing the 15-member council to formally call for free, fair and credible presidential elections in Venezuela with international observers, a move that prompted Russia to propose a rival draft resolution. It was unclear if or when either draft text could be put to a vote.

Moscow and Washington have been at loggerheads over a US-led campaign for international recognition of Venezuelan opposition leader and head of the country’s elected National Assembly Juan Guaido over Maduro. Guaido last month declared himself interim head of state.

US sending aid for Venezuela migrant crisis

Vice President Mike Pence says the United States is sending another $56m to neighbours of Venezuela to help them cope with migrants fleeing that nation’s deepening crisis.

Pence said Monday that the United States has already provided more than $139m in aid to help Venezuela.

He spoke in Colombia’s capital at a meeting of The Lima Group, a coalition of mostly Latin American nations formed to address Venezuela’s turmoil.

Pence also met opposition congressional leader Juan Guaido, who has declared presidential powers, arguing that the reelection of socialist President Nicolas Maduro was invalid.

Pence said the US has sent five military transport planes with 400 tonnes of food and medicine to Colombia and Brazil.

Deadly clashes erupted over the weekend when Maduro refused to allow the aid cross, calling it part of a US-led coup.

Mike Pence: President Guaido, we are with you 

US Vice President Mike Pence told Juan Guaido, who declared himself Venezuela’s interim president, that the United States stands with him. 

“President Trump has asked me to convey a message to him, President Guaido: we are with you, and we will be until the freedom and democracy come back,” he said. 

“As of today, the United States will impose additional sanctions on the regime’s officials.”

Pence also asked Latin American nations to freeze Venezuela oil assets. 

“We call on all Lima Group nations to immediately freeze the assets of PDVSA,” he said.

“Secondly, transfer ownership of Venezuelan assets in your country from Maduro’s henchmen to President Guaido’s government,” and he also called on the countries to restrict visas for officials close to Maduro and to vote to recognise the representative of Juan Guaido, Venezuela’s self-declared interim president, at the Inter-American Development Bank.

US Vice President Mike Pence and Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido attend a meeting of the Lima Group in Bogota [Luisa Gonzalez/Reuters]

Guaido: We are here to recover Venezuela’s democracy 

The opposition leader Juan Guaido is about to speak in a meeting of the Lima Group and has started requesting a “minute of silence for the massacre Venezuelans experienced on February 23,” according to local media reports. 

“This meeting is aimed at the recovery of democracy in Venezuela, and the respect for human rights. Today Maduro thinks that by blocking the humanitarian aid, he has gained a victory. They dance in Caracas, on top of indigenous tombs,” he added.

“The dilemma is between a dictatorship and democracy. Between massacres or saving lives.”

“Today the transition is being blocked by irregular armed groups,” Guaido explained, “without those weapons we would have a pacific transition.”

US Vice President Mike Pence and Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido observe a minute of silence in honour of the victims of February 23 [Luisa Gonzalez/Reuters] 

Colombia president wants to close circle around Maduro

Colombia’s President Ivan Duque called on members of the Lima Group meeting in Bogota on Monday to create a “more powerful and effective” ring around Venezuela’s socialist leader Nicolas Maduro.

Duque, who met with Venezuela’s opposition leader Juan Guaido and US Vice President Mike Pence, said added pressure would facilitate the “rapid construction of the transition demanded by the Venezuelan people.”

Colombia’s President Ivan Duque speaks during a meeting of the Lima Group [Luisa Gonzalez/Reuters]

US ramps up pressure on Venezuela with fresh sanctions

The US has imposed sanctions on four Venezuelans as it ramped up pressure on Venezuelan President Nicholas Maduro, whose election Washington sees as illegitimate.

The action, which was announced in a post on the US Treasury’s website, coincides with US Vice President Mike Pence attending a meeting of the regional Lima Group of nations in Bogota, where he was expected to announce steps against Maduro’s government.

Pence: Aid delivery violence steeled US resolve to back Guaido

Violence during the attempted delivery of much-needed food and medicine to Venezuela over the weekend has steeled the United States’s resolve to support opposition leader Juan Guaido, US Vice-President Mike Pence said on Monday.

The US will keep standing with Guaido until freedom is restored is the South American nation, Pence said at a meeting of the regional Lima Group bloc.

China rebukes foreign opponents of Maduro

China’s foreign ministry has issued a rebuke to foreign opponents of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, saying China opposes “intervention by external forces in the internal affairs of Venezuela.”

Foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang says China “also opposes using the so-called humanitarian aid to serve political ends and stir up instability and even turmoil in Venezuela and its neighborhood, which is not in the interests of any party.”

Lima Group begins meeting on next steps in Venezuela crisis

Venezuela opposition leader Juan Guaido and US Vice President Mike Pence took part in a meeting of the Lima Group in Colombia on Monday to discuss a joint strategy to resolve Venezuela’s crisis.

“In the Lima Group we’re fighting to find a peaceful solution,” said Peru’s Foreign Affairs Minister Hugo de Zela.

A group of demonstrators takes part in a protest as a meeting of the Lima Group. The placard reads ‘No to the war, we defend life’ [Carlos Julio Martinez/Reuters] 

EU says military intervention in Venezuela must be avoided

The European Union on Monday urged countries to avoid any military intervention in Venezuela, the spokeswoman for diplomatic chief Federica Mogherini said.

“We must avoid a military intervention,” Maja Kocijancic told reporters, as Venezuela’s opposition leader Juan Guaido was in Bogota to hold talks with allies in the regional Lima Group of countries on measures to compel President Nicolas Maduro to leave office.

Evo Morales calls for dialogue 

Bolivian President Evo Morales called on the Lima Group to seek a solution for Venezuela on the basis of dialogue, as an option to avoid a war in Latin America. 

“Brother Presidents of the Lima Group: Respecting our political differences and as democratically elected leaders, I ask you, with much respect, to seek a solution through dialogue as an option to save lives and prevent war from bringing destruction to our LA,” Morales wrote on his Twitter account.

Sunday, February 24

Pence to announce ‘concrete steps’ in Venezuela crisis 

US Vice President Mike Pence is set to announce “concrete steps” and “clear actions” to address the Venezuela crisis when he meets on Monday with regional leaders in Bogota, a senior US administration official said.

The official declined to comment on what the new measures would entail ahead of Pence’s speech, which he will deliver to a summit of the Lima Group around 15:30 GMT after he meets with Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido.

UN’s high commissioner for human rights condemns violence 

Michele Bachelet condemned violence at points on the Venezuelan border where opposition figures have been trying to bring in aid shipments.

The former Chilean president focused her criticism on excessive use of force used by Venezuelan security forces, as well the involvement of pro-government groups.

“The Venezuelan government must stop its forces from using excessive force against unarmed protesters and ordinary citizens,” she said. 

Bachelet urged Maduro’s government “to rein in” pro-government groups reportedly using force against protesters.

“The use of proxy forces has a long and sinister history in the region,” she added, “it is very alarming to see them operating openly in this way in Venezuela.”

Clashes along the border in Brazil

Renewed clashes have broken out between protesters and Venezuelan national guardsmen at the border with Brazil.

Dozens of Venezuelans who had come to the Brazilian border city of Pacaraima began throwing rocks across the closed border at Venezuelan troops, who responded with tear gas and buckshot.

Globo television broadcast images of a Brazilian soldier advancing to the boundary line on Sunday to appeal for calm from the Venezuelan soldiers and to urge protesters and journalists to move back.

Cleanup begins on Venezuela-Colombia border after unrest

Venezuelan migrants on Sunday helped clean debris from a bridge where troops loyal to President Nicolas Maduro a day earlier fired tear gas on activists trying to deliver humanitarian aid in violent clashes that left two people dead and some 280 injured.

Colombian President Ivan Duque reinforced security around two international bridges near the city of Cucuta and ordered that they remain closed for 48 hours to allow for the cleanup effort.

Colombia: At least 285 wounded in border clashes

Civil defence officials in Colombia said at least 285 people had been wounded in clashes at border bridge crossings.

On Monday, the Lima Group will meet and discuss “the events that took place on Saturday in Venezuela,” Colombia’s President Ivan Duque wrote.

“[What happened] is clearly object of reproach by the international community, due to the barbarism and violence.”

“[On Monday] we will also debate how to strengthen the diplomatic siege that we have imposed [against] the dictatorship in Venezuela,” he added.

Two Venezuelan soldiers ask for asylum in Brazil: official

Two Venezuelan soldiers have sought refuge in Brazil Colonel Georges Feres Kanaan, a member of Brazil’s migration service, told AFP on Sunday.

Feres Kanaan said he was manning a welcoming post for Venezuelan migrants in Pacaraima on Brazil’s border with its northwestern neighbour when the two soldiers “presented themselves asking for asylum.”

Pompeo: Maduro’s ‘days are numbered’

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo expressed confidence that President Nicolas Maduro’s “days are numbered,” amid a violent impasse over humanitarian aid.

“Predictions are difficult. Picking exact days is difficult,” Pompeo told CNN. “[But] I’m confident that the Venezuelan people will ensure that Maduro’s days are numbered.”

Mauricio Macri: ‘The situation… is dramatic’

Argentinian president Mauricio Macri has condemned the “repression used by the government of Nicolas Maduro” on Saturday.

The president accused the leader of “imposing suffering on his people”.

“The situation that Venezuelans are living is dramatic. I want to condemn the repression deployed by Maduro and his actions to prevent Venezuelans from receiving humanitarian aid,” he wrote on Twitter.

“Once again, I renew Argentina’s support to the president in charge Juan Guaido, and support to the efforts that it carries out together with the National Assembly to allow the entry of food and medicines destined to alleviate the suffering that policies of the Maduro regime has imposed on all Venezuelan people.”

Brazil says Maduro’s violence to block aid ‘criminal act’

Brazil condemned the violence used by Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s government this weekend to block aid shipments from crossing the border, branding it a “criminal act” and calling on the international community to join efforts to “liberate” the South American nation.

Meanwhile, Brazilian Army Colonel George Feres Kanaan told Reuters on Sunday that two Venezuelan national guard soldiers deserted to Brazil late Saturday, joining some 60 military officials who defected in Colombia.

EU ready to boost aid to Venezuela: Mogherini

The European Union said it was prepared to “scale up” humanitarian and development aid to ease the plight of Venezuelans.

“We recall our commitment to help those in need for as long as it takes, to scale up this assistance,” EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said in a statement in the name of the bloc’s 28 members following deadly border clashes.

Sunday, February 23 

‘A long day of fighting’ 

“The opposition has given up on getting the aid through at least for today,” Al Jazeera’s Alessandro Rampietti reported from Cucuta. 

“Two of the four trucks carrying the aid have already left, the two remaining trucks are behind me and we have been told by some of the opposition officials that they are moving them back to the Tienditas bridge at the warehouse where most of the aid has been stored.”

“The opposition is considering that they tried, at least for today… it’s been a long day of fighting over this bridge, and in the bridge of Urenia, where two of the trucks were burned to the ground by people supporting President Nicolas Maduro,” he added.

Venezuelan youth run for cover from tear gas launched by Venezuela’s National Guard [Fernando Vergara/AP]

Guaido: Maduro has violated international law

Opposition leader Juan Guaido said that Maduro has violated international law by the way he has handled the aid.

“We keep receiving the support of the international community, they have been able to see how this usurper regime violates the Geneva protocol, where it clearly states that destroying aid is a crime against humanity,” he wrote on Twitter. 

According to Colombian officials, 23 members of Venezuelan security forces deserted, and  12 people were wounded during clashes in the border.

Maduro responsible for safety of Colombian embassy staff: Minister

 Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro is responsible for the safety of Colombian diplomats in Venezuela, Colombia’s foreign minister said on Saturday, after Maduro formally broke off relations with Bogota.

“Colombia holds the usurper Maduro responsible for any aggression or violation of the rights of Colombian officials in Venezuela,” Foreign Minister Carlos Holmes Trujillo said.

Meanwhile Colombian Vice President, Marta Lucia Ramirez said that Maduro “cannot break a diplomatic relation that Colombia does not have with him.”

“Our government has not named an ambassador there nor do we recognise Maduro’s ambassador since his term ended on January 9.” she wrote on Twitter.

Two people killed in Venezuelan town near Brazil 

Two people were killed, and 18 have been injured, in the Venezuelan town of Santa Elena de Uairen in clashes with security forces over the opposition’s plan to bring in aid from nearby Brazil, a doctor at the hospital where they were taken said.

Venezuelans rescue aid from burning trucks 

Venezuelans are rushing to rescue boxes of emergency food and medicine from burning trucks stalled on a bridge to Colombia.

Fernando Flores, an eyewitness, said national guardsmen had torched the trucks once they crossed into Venezuelan territory.

Maduro has vowed to block any aid shipments, considering them a “Trojan horse” intended to pave the way for foreign military intervention

Aid truck goes up in flames on Colombian border 

One truck in a convoy attempting to bring humanitarian aid into Venezuela from Colombia went up in flames on Saturday, sending plumes of dark smoke into the air, footage from a Venezuelan television channel showed.

Another truck almost went on fire on Urena’s border. “The regimen is using the vilest acts and it has tried to burn a truck with humanitarian aid in Urena,” Guaido wrote. 

“Our brave volunteers are making a human chain to safeguard the food and medicines.”

Guaido: Trucks are in Venezuela 

Opposition leader Guaido says humanitarian aid from Colombia has entered Venezuela, but Venezuelan forces have prevented them from moving any further.

“They won’t be able to stop our decision to live in freedom.” Guaido wrote. 

Venezuela severs relations with Colombia

Venezuela President Nicolas Maduro breaks diplomatic relations with neighbouring Colombia.

“Patience is exhausted, I can’t bear it anymore, we can’t keep putting up with Colombian territory being used for attacks against Venezuela. For that reason, I have decided to break all political and diplomatic relations with Colombia’s fascist government,” Maduro said in a speech.

Maduro: ‘I hold the reins, and I’ll … keep them in my hand’

President Nicolas Maduro addressed thousands of supporters in Caracas and said:

“[For our] Dignity, we will fight harder than ever.”

“Hard, standing and governing our motherland for now and for many years, on behalf of our destiny, with the reins in our hand.

“I hold the reins of the motherland, I hold the reins on behalf of the young people, university students, when I hold the reins, I’m holding them on your behalf, working mothers .. military members.. men and women alike …”

“Today is February 23rd and a month ago exactly, at this under the same sun, I saw you at the Miraflores palace, we met there, and what did I tell you … that days will go by,  weeks will go by and Nicolas Maduro the worker’s president will continue at the head of the motherland.”

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro speaks during a pro-government march in Caracas [Yuri Cortez/AFP]

Security forces use tear gas in Simon Bolivar bridge: report

Members of the Bolivarian police fired tear gas to remove people from Simon Bolivar’s bridge, El Nacional, a local news agency reported.

“There are women that have fainted and are under the trucks,” a Venezuelan citizen told media. 

Rival demonstrations in Caracas

Thousands are flooding the streets of Venezuela’s capital in rival demonstrations as opposition leaders vow to move shipments of humanitarian aid into the country despite objections from President Nicolas Maduro.

In Caracas, Maduro loyalists marched by the thousands to the city centre to the sounds of brass bands, while others rode motorcycles.

Opposition supporters are converging on a Caracas military base, urging soldiers to join their fight. 

Supporters of the Venezuelan opposition leader take part in a rally in Caracas [Carlos Jasso/Reuters]

Aid to be passed by human chain from Colombia 

A convoy of trucks carrying humanitarian assistance for Venezuela will be unloaded at the Simon Bolivar bridge on Colombia’s side of the border and the aid will be transported by a human chain across the frontier, Colombia’s migration agency said.

Al Jazeera’s Alessandro Rampietti reporting from Colombia said this is so far “the biggest showdown on the battle for the legitimacy of Venezuela.”

“You have President Nicolas Maduro that remains firmly in power, and you have the leader of the opposition, Juan Guiado, who declared himself the interim president who is saying that Maduro is nothing more than a usurper at this point.”

 “This action is very important because it’s the way for the opposition to show that they are able to be successful in so far the biggest act of defiance against President Maduro. it would be a way for him to show some legitimacy and to show that he can bring some level of change in the country even if he doesn’t control any level of power so far.”

Meanwhile Caraca’s former major Julio Borges told Al Jazeera that  “a humanitarian crisis cannot turn into a political blade.”

“People are here, because people in Venezuela are hungry and they need help,” he added.

Additional reporting by Mia Alberti in Cucuta, Colombia

Trucks carrying humanitarian aid for Venezuela in the area of a warehouse [Mia Alberti/Al Jazeera]

Aid shipment enters Venezuela via Brazil border: Guaido

Venezuela’s opposition leader Juan Guaido announced that a first shipment of humanitarian aid had entered Venezuela through its border with Brazil.

“Attention Venezuela: We officially announce that the first shipment of humanitarian aid has now entered our border with Brazil. This is a great achievement, Venezuela!” wrote Guaido in a tweet.

Aid convoy leaves Colombian warehouses

A convoy of trucks carrying humanitarian aid for Venezuela left warehouses in Colombia headed for the nearby border crossing, despite Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s insistence they would not be allowed to cross.

Speaking on the Colombian side of the border, opposition leader Juan Guaido called on troops to allow the convoy to cross. Alongside him, Colombian President Ivan Duque said Maduro would be responsible for any violence.

Truck carrying aid crosses Brazil border: opposition lawmaker

A truck carrying humanitarian aid crossed into Venezuela from Brazil at midday on Saturday, opposition lawmaker Miguel Pizarro told reporters in Caracas.

A Reuters witness said, however, that while the truck was on Venezuelan soil, it had not yet passed through the customs checkpoint.

Guaido: Humanitarian aid on its way to Venezuela

Opposition leader Juan Guaido gives a statement to the media alongside Colombia’s President Ivan Duque and Paraguay’s President Mario Abdo Benitez.

US-donated aid is “on its way” to Venezuela, Guaido announced.

“The humanitarian aid is definitely going to Venezuela in a peaceful and calm manner to save lives at this time,” said Guaido, at a ceremony to launch the effort on the Colombian side of the border in defiance of a blockade by President Nicolas Maduro.

“This is a landmark point in our history” 

“To the Generals and all the countries that have formed [part of] this coallition… we are eternally grateful to you all.” he added. 

Additional reporting by Mia Alberti in Cucuta, Colombia

Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido speaks to the media alongside Paraguay’s President Mario Abdo Benitez and Colombia’s President Ivan Duque [Marco Bello/Reuters]

Aid from Brazil sent to border with Venezuela

The first truck with humanitarian aid from the Brazilian government has arrived in the city of Pacaraima on the border with Venezuela.

The crossing has been closed on orders from Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and the truck loaded with food and medicine will now wait in Brazilian territory.

Brazil’s Foreign Minister Ernesto Araujo said he expects Maduro’s government to allow the aid to pass.
“It is very exciting to see people anxious to recover their freedom and have a decent life,” Araujo said.

Bolton: ‘The world is watching’

US President Donald Trump’s national security adviser John Bolton cancelled plans to travel to South Korea to prepare for a summit addressing North Korea’s nuclear program in order to focus instead on events unfolding in Venezuela, his spokesman said on Friday.

National Security Adviser Jonh Bolton has sent a message to the military forces.

Four Venezuelan soliders desert before aid handover

Four National Guard troops at the frontier disavowed Maduro’s government on Saturday, following an appeal from Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido to let aid through.

A social media video showed the troops driving armoured vehicles across a bridge linking the two countries, knocking over metal barricades in the process, and then jumping out of the vehicles and running to the Colombian side.

Colombia’s migration authority confirmed the defection of the four Venezuelan soldiers.

Opposition leader Juan Guaido expressed his support on Twitter in Spanish.

Translation: Venezuela, those guards and members of the Armed Forces who decide to join our fight are not defectors.

They have decided to side with the people and the Constitution!

Welcome! The arrival of Freedom and Democracy in Venezuela is already unstoppable.

Tear gas and rubber bullets

Venezuelan security forces fired tear gas and rubber bullets on Saturday to disperse a crowd demanding to cross the Venezuela-Colombia border, ordered closed by President Nicolas Maduro.

Demonstrators clash with Venezuela’s security forces in Urena [Andres Martinez Casares/Reuters]


Security forces block Colombian border

Before daybreak, a large contigent of national guards in riot gear forced people to move away from the road to the Simon Bolivar bridge connecting Venezuela and Colombia.

The Venezuelan government had said that it was closing three of its bridges on the border.

Street vendors and people with suitcases walked along the street in the dark closely followed by dozens of soldiers.

“What’s happening here is that the Armed Forces, by order of Padrino Lopez,Venezuelan Defence Minister, and Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, have blocked the border, and do not let anyone pass,” explained Ronaldo Suarez, a street vendor selling coffee and cigarettes by the border.

Venezuela’s opposition supporters demand to cross the border line between Colombia and Venezuela at Simon Bolivar bridge [Edgard Garrido/Reuters]

Friday, February 22

Venezuela, US discussing status of US diplomats: minister

Venezuela and the United States are still in discussions about the status of US diplomats in Caracas ahead of next week’s deadline imposed by President Nicolas Maduro for them to leave, Venezuela’s foreign minister said on Friday.

In a press briefing at the United Nations, Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza said Venezuelan officials would meet with the U.S. special envoy for Venezuela, Elliott Abrams, to discuss the issue.

Venezuela opposition leader Guaido arrives at Colombia aid concert

Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido arrived arm-in-arm with Colombian President Ivan Duque on Friday at a concert in Colombia that aims to raise $100 million for humanitarian aid for his country.

UN chief appeals to Venezuela to avoid violence

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres “strongly appeals” for violence to be avoided in Venezuela, a UN spokesman said on Friday after the first bloodshed linked to efforts to bring aid into the country against the orders of embattled President Nicolas Maduro.

“Any loss of life is regrettable,” UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters. “Looking ahead for tomorrow the secretary-general strongly appeals for violence to be avoided,” he added.

Opposition leader Juan Guaido has vowed to bring in foreign aid from neighboring countries on Saturday and called on security forces to disobey Maduro and let supplies into the country suffering food and medicine shortages.

Rival concerts become backdrop for Venezuela power struggle

Dueling concerts will be the backdrop of the showdown between Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and opposition leader and self-declared interim president Juan Guaido on Friday as the opposition prepares to bring aid across the Venezuela-Colombia border – a move Maduro has vowed to block.

Billionaire Richard Branson will host a “Venezuelan Aid Live” concert on the Tienditas International bridge, which connects Venezuela and Colombia, while Maudro’s government plans to hold a three-day festival on the other side of the border.

Read more

Brazil sends plane with aid to Venezuelan border

The Brazilian government is sending a plane load of supplies and humanitarian aid to its northern border with Venezuela on Friday.

Although Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro officially closed the border between the two countries Thursday, the Brazilian air force plane loaded with food and medicine took off destined for Boa Vista, the main city in the northern state of Roraima.

Authorities will then transport the goods by road three hours north to Pacaraima, the city that borders Venezuela.

Maduro ‘constantly’ talks with Putin

Venezuelan Deputy Foreign Minister Ivan Gil said at a meeting in the upper chamber of the Russian parliament on Friday that President Nicolas Maduro is “constantly in touch” with President Vladimir Putin on the phone.

He thanked Russia for a recent shipment of medicine but reiterated the government stance that there is no humanitarian crisis in the South American country.

Venezuelan troops kill one in first bloodshed over aid

Venezuelan troops killed at least one person and wounded 12 others on Friday near the Brazilian border, witnesses said, the first bloodshed linked to opposition efforts to bring aid into the South American country against the wishes of embattled President Nicolas Maduro.

Friday’s violence broke out as indigenous leaders in southern Venezuela said they had attempted to stop a military convoy heading toward the border with Brazil, believing the soldiers were attempting to block the entrance of foreign aid as per Maduro’s order.

The convoy entered the indigenous village of Kumarakapay anyway, opening fire to clear the way and killing a woman, Zoraida Rodriguez, according to community leaders Richard Fernandez and Ricardo Delgado.

“The result of this crime: 12 injured and one dead,” opposition leader Juan Guaido, who declared interim presidency, said on Twitter. “You must decide which side you are on in this definitive hour. To all the military: between today and tomorrow, you will define how you want to be remembered.”

Thursday, February 21

Volunteers vow to move aid into Venezuela 

Representatives of Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido held a news conference in the Colombian border city of Cucuta on Thursday, vowing to transport humanitarian aid into Venezuela.

Tons of aid is currently stored in Cucuta, awaiting to enter into the other side of the border in Venezuela.
Venezuelan nurses, doctors, engineers and homemakers are volunteering by the thousands to distribute the food and medicine in the face of a government ban.

The citizen brigade is one of the most ambitious undertakings Venezuela’s opposition has attempted.

“I am inviting you to turn the 29 municipalities of Tachira state into the border to all the bridges, to all the roads dressed in white,” Gaby Arellano, Venezuelan opposition member told journalists during the news conference in Cucuta.

Russian, Venezuelan diplomats meet in Moscow

A Russian deputy foreign minister has met with his Venezuelan counterpart as tensions rise in the South American country.

Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov and Venezuela’s Ivan Gil met in Moscow in a session that the Russian Foreign Ministry said was held in a constructive atmosphere.

“The Russian side expressed solidarity with the friendly people of Venezuela, firm support for the policy of its government aimed at preventing destabilisation in the country and supported the idea of holding a national dialogue to overcome the differences in Venezuelan society,” the ministry said in a statement.

Maduro closes border with Brazil 

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said the government was considering closing the border with Colombia and would close the border with Brazil ahead of opposition plans to bring in humanitarian aid despite his objection.

In televised comments, Maduro said the stockpiling of aid for Venezuela in the Colombian border town of Cucuta was a “provocation”. He argues the opposition’s plans are a cheap show to undermine his government.

Maduro said the government would close the border with Brazil on Thursday night after the Brazilian government pledged to also send aid in. 

Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro said the government was considering closing the border with Colombia [Marcelo Garcia /AFP]

Pence will meet with Lima group 

US Vice President Mike Pence will fly to Bogota, Colombia on Monday to discuss the Venezuela crisis with leaders of the regional Lima Group of nations, his office said on Thursday.

The United States and other members of the group have thrown their support behind opposition leader Juan Guaido and are trying to pressure President Nicolas Maduro to step aside to allow for new elections and the entry of aid.

“The struggle in Venezuela is between dictatorship and democracy, and freedom has the momentum. Juan Guaido is the only legitimate leader of Venezuela, and it’s time for Nicolas Maduro to go,” Alyssa Farah, a spokeswoman for Pence, said in a statement

Opposition leaders travel to Venezuela’s border 

A caravan of opposition leaders is heading toward Venezuela’s border with Colombia ahead of a Saturday showdown over humanitarian aid.

Lawmakers departed in three white buses from Caracas early Thursday.

The opposition is vowing on Saturday to deliver large amounts of US-supplied aid warehoused in the Colombian border city of Cucuta. 

Air France halts Caracas flights 

Air France said it is suspending some flights to Caracas until Monday as the political crisis deepens with a standoff over foreign aid.

An airline spokeswoman told AFP news agency late Wednesday that “certain flights had been halted over security concerns,” including direct flights between Paris and Caracas.

Air France’s website, however, was on Thursday still offering flights to Caracas via Panama.

Wednesday, February 20

Guaido to head to Colombia border in a caravan: spokesman

Guaido plans to head to the border with Colombia on Thursday to lead the attempt to bring in US aid in defiance of Maduro’s government.

The opposition leader has set Saturday as the deadline for bringing in the aid stockpiled in Cucuta, Colombia.

His press office said he will depart for the border in a caravan with fellow members of the opposition-controlled National Assembly.

Although it was unclear what Guaido intends to do, he has enlisted hundreds of thousands of volunteers in recent days to help bring in and distribute the aid, forcing a showdown with Maduro.

Venezuela closes maritime border with Dutch islands 

Venezuela’s borders with Aruba, Curacao and Bonaire will remain closed for an indefinite period, Vice President Delcy Rodriguez, accompanied by Chancellor Jorge Arreaza, announced on Wednesday.

Rodriguez also informed that on instructions from President Nicolas Maduro diplomatic relations with the Government of the Netherlands Antilles will be reviewed.

The government made the decision after Curacao’s government said the island would help store aid destined for Venezuela.

Venezuela’s borders with Aruba, Curacao and Bonaire will remain closed, Delcy Rodriguez said (File:Ricardo Mazalan/AP)

Venezuelans brace for tense aid delivery bid

Venezuelans are bracing nervously for possible weekend confrontations as Guaido vows to bring US aid into the country in defiance of Maduro’s government.

In the latest maneuver of his standoff with the president, Guaido rallied bus drivers who he said will head to the borders to collect aid for Venezuelans suffering shortages.

Private bus driver Jose Figueroa, 60, said he planned to leave Caracas in the coming days in a convoy of some 30 vehicles.

“The situation is extremely tense,” he said, as drivers parked their buses and pick-up trucks at a rally in central Caracas.

“But a bullet will kill you more quickly than hunger.”

Opposition leader Juan Guaido attends a protest of the public transport sector against the government [Manaure Quinter/Reuters]


Venezuela bans boats from leaving ports

The Venezuelan military said it was banning vessels from sailing out of the country’s ports until Sunday, coinciding with an opposition bid to import shipments of US aid.

“Departures of boats from all ports are to be suspended” for security reasons, said a military decree seen by AFP news agency.

Colombia prepares for concert 

The Colombian border city of Cucuta is preparing for a live concert over the weekend that aims to shed light on the humanitarian crisis in neighbouring Venezuela.

Cucuta’s mayor Cesar Rojas Ayala said Cucuta is preparing with  strong police presence but does not expect a military confrontation.

“We have available 1,500 men throughout all the corridors where the movement of vehicle of the personalities will be,” Ayala said.

Switzerland says its president did not speak to Guaido

Swiss President Ueli Maurer did not speak to Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido about freezing Swiss bank accounts belonging to the South American nation, a foreign ministry spokesman said on Wednesday.

“This information is not correct. There was no telephone contact between Guaido and President Maurer,” the spokesman said by email in response to an enquiry.

He was not immediately available to elaborate.

Guaido: We will go to the barracks

Opposition leader Juan Guaido informed citizens that the mobilisation summoned for this Saturday will go to the military barracks to demand that humanitarian aid is allowed to enter the country.

Guaido also sent a message to the military citizens and stressed that the entry of humanitarian aid is to serve citizens and “save lives.”

Russia: Diplomacy ignored by US in Venezuela

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov accused the United States of “direct intervention” in Venezuela.

He alleged the opposition, led by Juan Guaido, was guilty of “actively supporting and instigating this external interference”.

“This is undoubtedly a direct violation of the UN charter and a direct intervention into the domestic affairs of an independent country,” said Lavrov of American actions.

He added the US was ignoring diplomacy.

Lavrov’s comments came as Russian news agencies reported a shipment of Russian medicine and medical equipment arrived in Venezuela.

Security forces punish anti-Maduro protesters: Amnesty

Venezuelan security forces have executed several people and arbitrarily detained hundreds of others in a campaign to punish people who protested President Nicolas Maduro, human rights group Amnesty International said.

In a report titled Hunger, punishment and fear, the formula for repression in Venezuela, Amnesty said dozens died during five days of protests from January 21 to January 25, almost all from gunshot wounds, and 900 people were arrested.

A supporter of Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido holds a banner reading ‘freedom’ during a protest on January 30 [Carlos Garcia Rawlins/Reuters]

Guaido trying to freeze accounts in Switzerland

Opposition leader Juan Guaido said he spoke to the president of Switzerland to try to freeze banks accounts belonging to the tumultuous South American nation after “irregular movements” were discovered.

“We are talking to the Swiss president,” Guaido said in an interview with Mexican network Televisa.

Guaido said the Venezuelan government held bank accounts in Switzerland and irregular efforts to migrate part of those accounts to “another site” had been detected.

Venezuela’s opposition leader Juan Guaido is trying to freeze banks accounts in Switzerland [RManaure Quintero/Reuters]

Maritime border with Dutch Antilles reopened 

Venezuelan authorities  reopened the country’s maritime border with the Dutch Antilles islands after closing it on Tuesday, a regional military commander told Reuters news agency.

General Miguel Morales Miranda, second-in-command for the state of Falcon, did not give a reason for the change, which now allows boats and aircraft to travel between Venezuela and the islands of Aruba, Curacao and Bonaire.

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