Published: Sat, January 26, 2019
Finance | By Jaime Brady

Venezuela to close USA embassy, consulates

Venezuela to close USA embassy, consulates

Political leaders in both Greece and Germany came out in support for Venezuela's elected leader late Thursday against a parliamentary leader's claim to be "interim president".

European Union countries are drafting an appeal for Venezuela's leader Nicolas Maduro to convene quick elections, with some demanding recognition of Juan Guaido as interim president if he does not, diplomats said.

Driving this hardened US stance is the growing assertiveness of more hawkish White House aides led by Bolton, Vice President Mike Pence's deep engagement on the issue, a push by anti-Maduro US lawmakers and the arrival of like-minded rightist presidents in Brazil and Colombia, according to people familiar with the matter.

On Wednesday, Trump recognized Guaido as the country's interim president, escalating an ongoing feud between the USA and Maduro.

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The US Embassy in Caracas said it will remain open for a few hours at "limited ability to provide emergency services to US citizens in Venezuela".

"My brother Maduro! Stand tall, we stand by you!"

However Venezuelan Defence Minister Vladimir Padrino said via Twitter that the country's armed forces disavowed any president who was self-proclaimed or imposed by "dark interests".

The constitutionality of Guaido's move is unclear.

"The EU strongly calls for the start of an immediate political process leading to free and credible elections, in conformity with the constitutional order", the bloc's diplomatic chief Federica Mogherini said in a statement.

Much of the worldwide community rallied behind Mr Guaido, with Canada and numerous Latin American and European countries announcing that they recognised his claim to the presidency.

Oil revenues are crucial to the already crumbling Venezuelan economy and routing that money away from Maduro as the United States seeks to do would be a serious blow.

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As the death toll from days of street protests jumped to 26, a defiant Maduro announced the closure of Venezuela's embassy and consulates in the United States, a day after President Donald Trump's administration declared his regime "illegitimate".

France warned Maduro against "any form of repression" of the opposition as UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said more than 350 people were arrested this week during the protests.

The prospect of Maduro being ousted is a geopolitical and economic headache for Moscow which, alongside China, has become a lender of last resort for Caracas, lending it billions of dollars as its economy implodes.

The Venezuelan military continues to side with Maduro, threatening the success of the opposition's attempted coup. But there has been growing frustration within the administration that more was needed.

Several South American countries, Russian Federation and Turkey have also expressed solidarity with Maduro.

"The president's instincts have always been to do the strongest possible action (against Venezuela) that doesn't undermine the cohesion of this multilateral approach", Rubio told Reuters.

"What's going on in Venezuela", San Miguel said, "hasn't finished yet".

"The United States needs to stay out of Venezuela". Some countries recognized this. "Literally in every interaction that he has had with Latin American leaders since taking office, he brings up Venezuela". Claver-Carone is known as a hardliner on communist Cuba and outspoken critic of former President Barack Obama's rapprochement with Havana.

Maduro has also shuttered U.S. missions in the United States.

Major League Baseball adds: "In the meantime, we advise club personnel in the strongest terms to immediately cease travel to Venezuela for any reason". Since the longer recognizes Maduro's authority, however, the US diplomats remain in Caracas.

Maduro's reelection a year ago was disputed by the opposition, and criticised internationally - but the socialist leader has until now retained the loyalty of the powerful military.

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