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Venezuela plunges into crisis

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Venezuela has plunged further into 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 Wednesday, Juan Guaido, the leader of the opposition-controlled National Assembly, declared himself the interim president.

Shortly after Guaido took an oath swearing himself in before his supporters, US President Donald Trump publicly recognised him as the country’s interim president. In response, Maduro broke off diplomatic ties with the United States and gave US diplomats 72 hours to get out of his country.

Venezuela’s constitution says if the presidency is determined to be vacant, new elections should be called in 30 days and that the head of congress should assume the presidency in the meantime.

However, the pro-government Supreme Court has ruled that all actions taken by congress are null and void and Maduro’s government has accused Guaido of staging a coup and threatened him with jail.

Wednesday, January 23
Lawyers ask for Guaido protection
Three Venezuelan lawyers ask the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to grant precautionary measures to protect Guaido, his wife and his daughter.

The request, shared with The Associated Press news agency by the lawyer Ignacio Alvarez, argues the measure is needed to safeguard the life, personal integrity and personal freedom of Guaido and his immediate family.

The document says the request does not equal to a recognition of the legitimacy of the Maduro government.

The human rights body of the Organization of American States has the authority to grant precautionary measures as a way to request states protection for persons at urgent and grave risk of suffering irreparable harm.

Mexico and Uruguay urge calm
Mexico and Uruguay call on all internal and external parties involved in Venezuela’s crisis to defuse tensions and prevent an escalation of violence.

Uruguay’s foreign ministry releases a statement saying the two countries are proposing a “new process of inclusive and credible negotiations with full respect for the rule of law and human rights” to resolve the dispute peacefully.

US: Maduro lacks authority to sever relations, expel diplomats
The US State Department says Maduro has no authority to cut diplomatic relations with Washington.

“The United States does not recognise the Maduro regime as the government of Venezuela,” it says in a statement.

“Accordingly the United States does not consider former president Nicolas Maduro to have the legal authority to break diplomatic relations with the United States or to declare our diplomats persona non grata.”

Erdogan expresses solidarity with Maduro
Following Washington’s move, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan expresses solidarity with Maduro.

“Maduro brother, stand tall, Turkey stands with you, Erdogan tells President Nicolas Maduro by telephone,” Turkish presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin writes on Twitter.

Kalin also shares the #WeAreMADURO hashtag to show solidarity.

Venezuelan defence minister backs Maduro
Venezuelan Defence Minister Vladimir Padrino says via Twitter on Wednesday that the country’s armed forces disavow any president who is self-proclaimed or imposed by “dark interests”.

Padrino vows that the armed forces will defend Venezuela’s constitution and national sovereignty.

Maduro urges military unity
Maduro urges the military to maintain unity and discipline.

Maduro to revise US diplomatic ties after Pence backs protesters
“We will triumph over this as well, we will come out victorious,” Maduro tells supporters outside the Miraflores presidential palace in Caracas.

Maduro severs US ties
Just hours after the US backed the opposition leader, Maduro declares he is breaking relations with the US and gives its diplomatic personnel 72 hours to leave Venezuela. Contacts have already been severely limited in recent years.

Bolivia, Cuba back Maduro
Bolivia’s leftist President Evo Morales affirms his long-standing alliance with Maduro, offering to stand by Venezuela’s side against what he often calls US meddling in South America’s affairs.

Venezuela opposition leader declares himself interim president
“Our solidarity with the Venezuelan people and our brother Nicolas Maduro, in these decisive hours in which the claws of imperialism seek again to mortally wound the democracy and self-determination of the peoples of South America,” Morales says in a Twitter post

Mexico also says it recognises “the authorities elected in accordance with the Venezuelan constitution”, seen as a lukewarm nod to Maduro, while Cuba expresses its “firm support” for the Venezuelan president after what it called a “coup attempt”.

Other countries follow US
Guaido gains recognition from a slew of right-wing or right-leaning Latin American governments, including Venezuela’s neighbours Brazil and Colombia. Guatemala and Costa Rica also recognise the opposition leader.

Canada says it intends to back Guaido.

Guaido’s declaration takes Venezuela into uncharted territory, with the possibility of the opposition now running a parallel government recognised abroad as legitimate but without control over state functions.

US recognises Guaido
Shortly after Guaido swears himself in, Trump officially recognises him as president.

“In its role as the only legitimate branch of government duly elected by the Venezuelan people, the National Assembly invoked the country’s constitution to declare Nicolas Maduro illegitimate, and the office of the presidency therefore vacant,” Trump says.

Guaido claims interim presidency
At a rally that brought hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans into the east of the capital, Caracas, Guaido says Maduro usurped power.

Rival protests held in Venezuela as pressure mounts on Maduro
Guaido, 35, promises to create a transitional government that would help the country escape its hyperinflationary economic collapse.

“I swear to assume all the powers of the presidency to secure an end to the usurpation,” Guaido tells the crowd.

Protesters gather for competing rallies
Pro-opposition and pro-government supporters stage rallies across the country.

Thousands of anti-government protesters participate in marches to demand Maduro’s resignation.

Venezuelan security forces fire tear gas at opposition demonstrators blocking a highway in Caracas.

Meanwhile, government supporters hold counterrallies for Maduro.

Tuesday, January 22
US Vice President Mike Pence backs opposition
US Vice President Mike Pence backs the anti-government protests in a video posted on Twitter.

“On behalf of President Donald Trump and all the American people, let me express the unwavering support of the United States as you, the people of Venezuela, raise your voices in a call for freedom,” Pence says in the taped message.

“Nicolas Maduro is a dictator with no legitimate claim to power. He has never won the presidency in a free and fair election, and has maintained his grip of power by imprisoning anyone who dares to oppose him.”

Venezuelan Vice President Delcy Rodriguez accuses Pence of “openly calling for a coup”.

“Yankee, go home,” she says, according to Telesur news service, which is partially backed by the Venezuelan government.

Opposition organises anti-Maduro rallies
Protesters burn rubbish and clash with troops in dozens of Caracas neighbourhoods, Reuters news agency reports.

The Venezuelan Observatory of Social Conflict, a body that monitors violence, says that a 16-year-old is killed overnight in the capital.

More protests are called for Wednesday.

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