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31 January 2019, 05:28 | Vera Richards
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WASHINGTON - 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.
Although in opposition hands since 2015, the National Assembly has been sidelined since 2016 as the Supreme Court - dominated by regime loyalists - annuls its every decision.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo certified that Mr Guaido has the authority to take control of any Venezuelan government accounts at the Federal Reserve Bank of NY or any other US-insured banks.
Wills Rangel, a board member of state oil company PDVSA, toldReuters the company was having problems unloading fuel imports because the sanctions were complicating payments.
Elliott Abrams, the recently-appointed USA envoy for Venezuela, said Washington was looking around the world for more assets of the Maduro government, including gold holdings and bank accounts.
Guaido shrugged off Maduro's efforts to choke his progress as "nothing new".
"You shouldn't sacrifice yourselves for the usurper and his gang", he added.
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Instead, he suggests, the USA should end its threat and foster dialogue between Maduro, the opposition, and third-party actors who vow to put the interests of all Venezuelans first.
The United States has refused to rule out military intervention in Venezuela and Donald Trump's National Security Adviser John Bolton was even photographed on Monday at the White House holding a notepad with the scrawled line: "5,000 troops to Colombia".
US President Donald Trump has spoken in support of Juan Guaido.
In a video message aimed at Americans on his Facebook account, Mr Maduro said: "If the United States intends to intervene here, they will have a Vietnam worse than what they can imagine".
According to a study conducted in early January 2019 by the local polling firm Hinterlaces, 86 percent of Venezuelans would disagree with global military intervention.
Maduro won a second six-year term last year in elections that the domestic opposition and many foreign countries have dismissed as rigged.
The previously little-known Guaido has re-invigorated the opposition movement by pushing for three immediate goals: to end Maduro's "usurpation" of power, establish a transitional government, and hold a new presidential election.
Colville said more than 40 people were believed to have been killed "in different manners" in the recent protests, including 11 people reportedly killed by "unidentified individuals" linked to incidents of looting.
Foreign policy experts have warned that sending the US military to Venezuela could bring more violence in a country already facing humanitarian crises. Trump also said there's a "Massive protest expected today".
In a tweet, he urged the opposition to "ignore the imperialist calls" and reiterated his offer of dialogue to Guaido. He has previously accused the USA of trying to orchestrate a coup d'etat.
Elliott Abrams, the State Department's newly appointed envoy for Venezuela, said the crisis appears to have exacerbated divisions within the Venezuelan military.
Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the new sanctions "violate all possible worldwide norms" and said the United States has "publicly taken a course toward illegal regime change". "I support what they're doing, but I don't like protests".
Fuel in Venezuela is practically free: one dollar can buy more than 300 million liters of fuel but only a kilogram (2.2 pounds) of onions.
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