U.S. in Touch With Venezuelan Military, Mulls New Sanctions on Maduro

The containers were positioned across the road ahead of an anticipated humanitarian aid shipment

The containers were positioned across the road ahead of an anticipated humanitarian aid shipment

On Thursday, Venezuelan Minister of Communications Jorge Rodriguez claimed he presented "proof" of what he called a US-backed coup attempt against Maduro's government in January.

People across the country have even begun to refer to their lack of food as the "Maduro diet", and have confronted him about it in public.

Opposition leader Juan Guaido vowed to use the bridge to deliver the aid being pledged by Trump and Canada.

At the same time, the Trump administration is readying further possible sanctions on Venezuela, the official said.

Consultants Eurasia Group said on Thursday that Maduro's traditonal allies Russian Federation and China are "unlikely to lend (him) meaningful support", reinforcing its view that the socialist leader "will be unable to sustain his regime".

At Maduro's request, Pope Francis said he would be willing to mediate but only if both parties were willing.

Britain, Germany, France and Spain and more than a dozen other European Union member states recognised Mr Guaido in a coordinated action on Monday, following the expiration of an ultimatum they gave for Mr Maduro to hold a new presidential election.

The socialist president "could accept negotiations in exchange for the lifting of sanctions and relaxing of worldwide pressure", according to Ernesto Pascual, political scientist at the Open University of Catalonia. "Venezuela is not suffering the humanitarian crisis fabricated by Washington over the last four years to justify intervening in our country".

A Venezuelan migrant prays in the Divina Providencia migrant shelter in Cucuta, Colombia, on the border with Venezuela, on February 7, 2019.

Mr Guaido also dismissed Mr Maduro's claim that a civil war could break out if the U.S. intervenes militarily in Venezuela.

The official declined to provide details on the discussions or the level at which they are being held, and it was unclear whether such contacts could create cracks in the Venezuelan socialist leader's support from the military, which is pivotal to his grip on power.

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Tanker trucks and shipping containers were moved into position late Tuesday on the Tienditas bridge, a key crossing point on the border with Colombia.

Opposition leader Juan Guaido, who requested the worldwide assistance, said it is necessary in a country racked by shortages of basic goods.

"We made a decision to evacuate all of our personnel from Venezuela given what has happened. since last Monday", AFP quoted Pouyanné as saying on Thursday.

Any military intervention would require consensus, unlikely to be forthcoming, according to Pascual, given the precedents of Iraq and Afghanistan. "We're still having conversations with members of the former Maduro regime, with military members, although those conversations are very, very limited".

"The risk exists", says Leon.

A protester holds a sign in favor of Juan Guaido, the head of the opposition-led National Assembly and self-declared "interim president" of Venezuela, during a demonstration against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro in Montevideo, Uruguay on February 7, 2019.

Officials at a Cucuta warehouse organized staple foods and sanitary products into sacks during an event attended by U.S. Ambassador to Colombia Kevin Whitaker and called on the armed forces to help it across. He suggested Guaido's offer was still too vague.

Guaido said the military has to decide whether to "take the side of the constitution" or to "continue on the side of an increasingly isolated dictator".

A day after the aid convoy arrived in the border city of Cucuta, President Nicolas Maduro ridiculed the United States for offering small amounts of assistance while maintaining sanctions that block some $10 billion of offshore assets and revenue.

The opposition leader launched a bid to oust Maduro last month, declaring himself interim president, a move recognized by the U.S. and around 40 other countries, including 20 from the European Union.

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