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, Macrh 29:

Venezuela defense minister says US security adviser ‘sending me messages’

Venezuelan Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino said on Friday that US national security adviser John Bolton has been sending him messages asking him to do the “right thing”.

“Mr Bolton, I tell you that we are doing the right thing,” Padrino said in televised comments. “Doing the right thing is doing what’s written in the constitution … Doing the right thing is respecting the will of the people.”

It was not immediately evident if Padrino was referring to Bolton’s recent tweets, in which he made direct mention of Padrino.

US response to Russian troops in Venezuela could include sanctions: Abrams

The US special representative for Venezuela said on Friday that US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has a list of options, including sanctions, Washington could use to respond to the presence of Russian troops in Venezuela.

“We have a list of options we have given the secretary. There are a lot of things we can do in economic terms, in terms of sanctions,” Elliott Abrams told a news briefing. “We have options and it would be a mistake for the Russians to think they have a free hand,” he added.

Red Cross says it sees conditions for humanitarian work in Venezuela

Venezuela has met the necessary conditions for the Red Cross to carry out humanitarian work in the South American nation, the president of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said in a news conference on Friday.

Francesco Rocca said the group was in a position to help some 650,000 people in Venezuela, which has suffered rising incidence of malnutrition and preventable disease amid an economic collapse.

Trump adviser warns Russia on military presence in Venezuela

US President Donald Trump’s national security adviser warned Russia on Friday about its military presence in Venezuela, saying any move to establish or expand operations there would be considered a “direct threat” to international peace.

“We strongly caution actors external to the Western Hemisphere against deploying military assets to Venezuela, or elsewhere in the Hemisphere, with the intent of establishing or expanding military operations,” White House national security adviser John Bolton said in a statement.

“We will consider such provocative actions as a direct threat to international peace and security in the region,” Bolton added. The US government says the Russian troops include special forces and cybersecurity personnel.

Thursday, March 28

Maduro’s government bars Guaido from public office for 15 years

The Venezuelan government said it has barred opposition leader Juan Guaido from holding public office for 15 years, though the National Assembly leader brushed off the measure and said it would not derail his campaign to remove President Nicolas Maduro.

The announcement by state comptroller Elvis Amoroso, a close ally of Maduro, cited alleged irregularities in Guaido’s financial records and reflected a tightening of government pressure on an opposition movement backed by the United States and its allies.

“We’re going to continue in the streets,” Guaido said soon after Amoroso’s statements on state television. He dismissed the comptroller’s announcement as irrelevant because, in his view, Maduro’s government is illegitimate.

Kremlin: our military specialists are in Venezuela to service arms deals

Russian military specialists are in Venezuela to service pre-existing contracts for the supply of Russian arms, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov says. 

Peskov also says Russia is not interfering in Venezuela’s internal affairs and that the Kremlin hopes other countries would let Venezuelans decide their own fate.

US President Donald Trump said on Wednesday that “all options” were open to make Russia pull troops out of Venezuela after two Russian air force planes landed outside Caracas on Saturday carrying nearly 100 Russian troops.

US bringing ‘maximum pressure’ on Venezuela: Sanctions official

The United States was bringing “maximum pressure” on the Venezuelan government of President Nicolas Maduro, a top US sanctions official said on Friday.

Sigal Mandelker, under-secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, made her comments in Singapore. She is due to discuss sanctions on Iran over coming days with government officials in Malaysia, Singapore and India.

Venezuelans turn to food production amid crisis

In the heart of the Venezuelan capital Caracas, a community has decided to create an agro-ecological farm and has called for the government and people to be ready for the coming US sanctions.

They have vegetables, fish and even rabbits to eat and distribute among the community. They say there are more than 20,000 projects like this one in Venezuela.

Al Jazeera’s Teresa Bo reports from Caracas, Venezuela.

Wednesday, March 27 

Guaido calls for protest against nationwide blackout

Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido has called on his supporters to protest against a nationwide blackout, the second major power outage this month that is dragging into its third day.

Trump says Russian military must leave Venezuela 

US President Donald Trump has said that Russian soldiers need to leave Venezuela, days after a Russian military contingent arrived just outside of Caracas, saying “all options” were open to make that happen.

“Russia has to get out,” Trump tells reporters during a meeting with the wife of Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido.

Asked how that could be accomplished, Trump says: “We’ll see. All options are open.”

Tuesday, March 25

Brazil not considering military force in Venezuela 

Brazil is not considering the use of military force in Venezuela and hopes for a peaceful solution to the country’s crisis, Defense Minister Fernando Azevedo e Silva says as he meets his American counterpart at the Pentagon.

“That’s not a hypothesis we’re considering. Brazil is looking forward to a peaceful and swift solution to the crisis in Venezuela,” he says, when asked whether the use of military force might be appropriate

Blackout leaves streets empty 

Venezuela has cancelled work and school as the second major blackout this month left streets mostly empty in Caracas and residents of the capital wondering how long power would be out amid a deepening economic and political crisis.

Maduro’s government blames an “attack” on its electrical system for the blackout that first hit on Monday.

The outage shuttered businesses, plunged the city’s main airport into darkness and left commuters stranded in Caracas.

“The enemies of our Homeland do not cease in their attempts to destabilise the Country,” Maduro writes on Twitter. 

“I assure you that in every action of hatred against our Homeland, you will find an increasingly united, conscious and mobilised people. We will defeat them!”

US ratchets up dispute with Maduro at WTO body 

The US has blocked a meeting of the World Trade Organization’s dispute body, gumming up its operations over the Trump administration’s refusal to recognise the government of President Nicolas Maduro in Venezuela.

The US delegation refuses to approve the agenda of the Dispute Settlement Body that was to take up several issues on Tuesday, including a Venezuelan effort to lift US sanctions and measures against Maduro’s government and entourage.

Approval of the DSB agenda requires consensus. Such a postponement is rare, and the move amounts to a new US tactic to try to ratchet up pressure against Maduro’s government.

Monday, March 25 

‘Reckless escalation’

The deployment by Russia of air force planes and personnel in Venezuela over the weekend is a “reckless escalation of the situation,” the US State Department has said.

“The United States condemns Russia’s deployment of military aircraft and personnel to Caracas, which is another contradiction of both Nicolas Maduro’s and Russia’s calls for non-intervention in Venezuela and is a reckless escalation of the situation,” a department spokesman says.

Second blackout hits Venezuela 

Power outages have hit across Caracas and in other parts of Venezuela less than two weeks after power was restored following a prolonged blackout.

Power is out in much of eastern Caracas as well as downtown, where the Miraflores presidential palace and most government ministries are located. Authorities say the Caracas subway is shutting down due to the lack of power.

Shops across the country closed early to protect against possible looting.

Saturday March 23 

Maduro vows ‘change’ 

Maduro has said a major shake-up will take place in his government in the coming days.

“I will in the coming hours announce a profound change in the entire government of Venezuela,” Maduro says in a speech at a political rally broadcast on state television.

“We need to renew ourselves, refresh, improve, change.”

Maduro also says the police has dismantled a plot to assassinate him led by Guaido and announces new arrests.

“We have dismantled a plan organised personally by the diabolical puppet to kill me,” Maduro tells thousands of supporters in Caracas. 

 “In the next few days there will surely be new captures of new terrorists,” he adds. 

Friday, March 22 

US sanctions Venezuelan state-owned bank Bandes

The United States imposed sanctions on Friday on state-owned Venezuelan development bank Bandes in response to the arrest of an aide to opposition leader Juan Guaido, saying the government had used it to prop itself up by moving assets abroad.

“[President Nicolas] Maduro and his enablers have distorted the original purpose of the bank … as part of a desperate attempt to hold onto power,” US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement announcing the action.

Venezuela key topic between Trump and Caribbean leaders

US President Donald Trump is hosting the leaders of Jamaica, Bahamas, Haiti, Dominican Republic and St Lucia at his affluent Mar-a-Lago club to show his support for Caribbean countries that back democratic transition in Venezuela.

The five have either denounced President Nicolas Maduro or have joined more than 50 countries in recognising Juan Guaido as the rightful interim leader of the nation.

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said Trump will use the meeting to thank the leaders for their support for peace and democracy in Venezuela and discuss potential opportunities for energy investment.

Nations in the Caribbean, however, have been split on whether to interfere in Venezuela.

South American presidents announce creation of new regional bloc

A group of South American leaders signed a declaration to create a regional bloc of nations they say is open to any country, regardless of ideology, to collaborate on solving regional problems.

Presidents from Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Chile, Ecuador, Paraguay, and Peru attended the summit in Santiago.

Chile and Colombia had led the push for the new political grouping after criticism that the previous regional bloc, called Unasur, failed to take action on Venezuela.

Thursday, March 21

Venezuelan gov’t accuses detained Guaido aide of planning attacks

Venezuela’s interior minister said on Thursday that authorities had arrested opposition leader Juan Guaido’s chief of staff for his involvement in an alleged “terrorist cell” that was planning attacks against high-level political figures.

Interior Minister Nestor Reverol, during an appearance on state television, showed an image of two rifles, which he called evidence collected against Roberto Marrero.

The opposition had said earlier that intelligence agents had planted weapons in Marrero’s house during a pre-dawn raid, a move by President Nicolas Maduro that the Trump administration said would “not go unanswered”.

Trump adviser Bolton vows action after Guaido aide detained in Venezuela

US President Donald Trump’s national security adviser called for the immediate release of Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido’s chief of staff on Thursday, saying his detention would “not go unanswered”.

White House national security adviser John Bolton said the government of Nicolas Maduro had “made another big mistake” with the “illegitimate arrest” of the aide, Roberto Marrero. “He should be released immediately and his safety guaranteed,” Bolton wrote in a Twitter post.

IMF still seeking member views on Venezuela leader recognition: Spokesman

The International Monetary Fund is still awaiting guidance from its members on whether to recognise Juan Guaido as Venezuela’s leader, IMF spokesman Gerry Rice said on Thursday, adding that there is no schedule for an IMF board meeting to decide the issue.

Rice told an IMF news briefing that there is still no clarity on Venezuela’s leadership situation and any shift in the Fund’s recognition of the government will be guided by its 189 member countries and the international community and “views are still being formed”.

Another Washington-based multilateral institution, the Inter-American Development Bank, last week replaced the representative of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro with an economist backed by Guaido, a major setback for the Maduro government.

Venezuela’s Guaido says intelligence agents detained his chief of staff

Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido said on Thursday intelligence agents had detained his chief of staff following a pre-dawn raid, signaling that President Nicolas Maduro may be cracking down on the opposition’s challenge to his rule.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, in a post on Twitter on Thursday, called for Roberto Marrero’s immediate release and said “we will hold accountable those involved”. The United States has repeatedly warned Maduro not to move against Guaido.

Wednesday, March 20

UN rights boss decries Venezuela crackdown

The UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet said on Wednesday that Venezuelan security forces, backed by pro-government militias, have cracked down on peaceful dissent, with excessive use of force, killings and torture documented by her office.

Bachelet, addressing the United Nations Human Rights Council, also voiced concern that the latest US sanctions on financial transfers linked to the sale of Venezuelan oil “may contribute to aggravating the economic crisis”.

Venezuelan authorities had failed to acknowledge the extent and severity of the health and food crisis that has driven more than 3 million Venezuelans to flee abroad and they had adopted “insufficient” measures, she told the Geneva forum.

Brazil foreign minister says US, Brazil share same view on Venezuela

Brazilian Foreign Minister Ernesto Araujo said on Wednesday President Jair Bolsonaro’s visit to Washington this week made clear that the United States and Brazil share the same view of how to deal with the Venezuelan crisis.

Araujo said at a news conference that Brazil will act diplomatically and politically, while the US could increase sanctions against the Venezuelan government.

Although US President Donald Trump said on Tuesday all options are open, Brazil’s armed forces are opposed to any military intervention in Venezuela.

Venezuela doctors under Maduro pressure during UN visit

Venezuelan doctors have come under pressure from President Nicolas Maduro’s government for trying to alert a visiting UN mission about the severe lack of hospital medicine and equipment, NGOs say.

Venezuelan authorities say that US sanctions freezing $30bn in assets have blocked imports of basic items including medicine.

But they have roughly stomped down on dissenting voices saying much of the resulting medical emergency is the fault of mismanagement, the NGOs allege.

According to Medicos Unidos (Doctors United), the repression has worsened over the past two weeks. “We have drawn attention to our patients dying for lack of supplies and equipment. Doctors have been arrested without any reason at all,” Jaime Lorenzo, executive director of the association said.

Tuesday, March 19

Trump: US has not yet imposed toughest sanctions on Venezuela

US President Donald Trump said on Tuesday that his administration had held in reserve what he called “the toughest of sanctions” to try to cut off revenues to Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.

“We haven’t done the toughest of sanctions, as you know,” Trump said after discussing the crisis in Venezuela at the White House with Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro.

Trump in January slapped sanctions on state-owned oil company Petroleos de Venezuela, known as PDVSA, the stiffest economic measure against Maduro to date. But Trump’s administration has not yet tried to prevent companies based outside the United States from buying Venezuelan oil, a strategy known as “secondary sanctions”.

The secondary sanctions were part of Washington’s strategy to cut off revenue to Iran, which eventually helped force Tehran to negotiate a nuclear deal with six world powers in 2015.

Trump reaffirms US considering ‘all options’ in Venezuela

US President Donald Trump on Tuesday reaffirmed that “all options” are being considered in his drive to bring down Venezuela’s hard-left President Nicolas Maduro.

“All options are on the table,” he told reporters in the White House. “It’s a shame what’s happening in Venezuela – the debt and the destruction and the hunger.”

Trump spoke at a meeting where he hosted Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who has backed the US-led campaign to pressure Maduro.

US-Russia talks on Venezuela positive but no agreement on Maduro: Abrams

Talks between the United States and Russia over the crisis in Venezuela were positive and substantive but the two sides were still divided over the legitimacy of President Nicolas Maduro, US special representative Elliott Abrams said on Tuesday.

“No, we did not come to a meeting of minds, but I think the talks were positive in the sense that both sides emerged with a better understanding of the other’s views,” Abrams said, adding that both sides had agreed on the depth of the crisis.

Meanwhile, RIA news agency cited Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov as saying the talks over the crisis in Venezuela were difficult but frank.

Russia warned the US not to intervene militarily in Venezuela, a Moscow ally, and said it was increasingly concerned by US sanctions on the Latin American country, Ryabkov was quoted as saying.

US hits Venezuela with new sanctions on state-run mining company

The United States imposed sanctions on Tuesday against Venezuela’s state-run mining company Minerven and its president, Adrian Perdomo, in a bid to further cut off funding to the government of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.

The announcement came days after Uganda said it was investigating its biggest gold refinery for importing Venezuelan gold. Washington has warned gold traders not to deal in Venezuelan gold or oil.

“The illegitimate Maduro regime is pillaging the wealth of Venezuela while imperiling indigenous people by encroaching on protected areas and causing deforestation and habitat loss,” US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement.

US backs Venezuela opposition to take UN disarmament role

A top US diplomat said her country wants an envoy of Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido to take up the rotating presidency of a key UN disarmament body in two months.

Assistant Secretary Yleem Poblete said on Tuesday the US hopes a Guaido envoy “will be in a position” to take the conference presidency when Venezuela’s turn comes in May.

Venezuelan ambassador Jorge Valero, who represents President Nicolas Maduro’s government, called Poblete’s comments “absolutely absurd” and accused the Trump administration of seeking to install a “puppet president” in Venezuela.

Venezuela suspends oil exports to India: Oil minister

Venezuela has suspended its oil exports to India and views Russia and China as its main export destinations, the Azeri energy ministry said on Tuesday, citing Venezuela’s oil minister.

The Azeri ministry issued the statement on Tuesday following talks in Baku between Azerbaijan’s energy minister and Venezuelan oil minister and president of state-run oil company PDVSA, Manuel Quevedo.

The Indian market has been crucial for Venezuela’s economy because it has historically been the second-largest cash-paying customer for the OPEC country’s crude, behind the United States.

Earlier this year, the US imposed heavy sanctions on Venezuela’s oil industry and has pressed India to stop buying Venezuelan oil.

Monday, March 18

Colombia: 1,000 Venezuelan forces crossed border

About 1,000 members of the Venezuelan security forces have fled to Colombia since last month, giving up weapons and uniforms as they abandoned the government of Maduro, Colombian authorities say.

Colombia’s foreign ministry released the updated number of Venezuelan police and military personnel who crossed the border, many around the time of a February 23 attempt by Guaido to deliver US-provided humanitarian aid to Venezuela. 

US -sanctioned general defects to Colombia: sources

A Venezuelan general who is under US sanction for incompetent management of a state medicine programme has fled to Colombia amid growing pressure on Maduro, two sources familiar with the matter tell Reuters. 

The US in 2018 sanctioned army General Carlos Rotondaro, former head of a government agency that provided medicine for chronic health conditions, as part of efforts to “highlight the economic mismanagement and endemic corruption” by Maduro’s government.

Rotondaro has left for Colombia and has joined forces with former Venezuelan Chief Prosecutor Luisa Ortega, who is working to have Maduro removed from office, one of the sources says.

Sunday, March 17 

Maduro asks cabinet ministers to offer resignations 

Nicolas Maduro is planning a “deep restructuring” of his government, Vice President Delcy Rodriguez has said, as the country recovers from a prolonged blackout amid a power struggle with the opposition.

“President Nicolas Maduro has asked the entire executive Cabinet to put their roles up for review in a deep restructuring of the methods and functions of the Bolivarian government, to protect the fatherland of Bolivar and Chavez from any threat,” Rodriguez writes on Twitter.

German journalist released in Venezuela headed home

Germany’s foreign ministry says a freelance journalist freed in Venezuela months after being jailed as a suspected spy is on his way home.

A Caracas court ordered the conditional release of Billy Six on Friday. He has been ordered to report to the court every 15 days and not to speak to media. 

Six had been charged with espionage, accusations his relatives denied.

Russian and US officials to discuss crisis

Russian and US diplomats will meet in Rome on Tuesday to hold talks about the crisis in Venezuela, according to the foreign ministry in Moscow.

Russia is to reiterate its position that a US military intervention in the South American country will be inappropriate, Sergei Ryabkov, Russia’s deputy foreign minister, tells the Interfax news agency.

Consultations are planned with US Special Representative for Venezuela Elliott Abrams, Ryabkov says, adding that Moscow wants Venezuela’s domestic unrest to be resolved through dialogue.

Saturday, March 16

March for victory

The president of the National Constituent Assembly Diosdado Cabello is leading the March for Victory in Caracas, where the people have taken to the streets to support the government. 

Cabello celebrates “the consolidation of a great popular victory,” after the restitution of electricity and potable water in Venezuela. 

“The right was wrong again, the people decided to be free and sovereign, no matter what they try, we will resist,” he says.

Cabello also says that the country needs “a real opposition, that is not controlled by the US, that respects the people of Venezuela, that if it goes to an election it recognises the results.”

Guaido launches new round of protests 

Large crowds have gathered in the northern city of Valencia to greet Guaido, who plans to tour Venezuela as part of his campaign to oust Maduro.

Guaido post photos on Twitter showing him at a cathedral service and a market.

“Those who work here and those who come to buy what little they can are working people who deserve to live better,” Guaido writes. 

“And although now the market [is not a place of] bustle and joy, today our people filled it with a strong cry of hope and freedom,” he adds. 

Protests are also planned in the capital, Caracas, and other parts of the country as Guaido seeks to ramp up pressure on Maduro, who says he is the target of a coup plot directed from Washington.

Friday, March 15

Netherlands, US agree to use Curacao as possible aid hub

The Netherlands and the US reached an agreement on Friday to use facilities on the Dutch Caribbean island of Curacao for possible distribution of aid to nearby Venezuela, Curacao’s prime minister said.

The island will only be used for civilian operations to deliver aid, such as food and medicines, to Venezuela if the Venezuelan government explicitly allows it, the Dutch Foreign Ministry said last month.

Curacao Prime Minister Eugene Rhuggenaath said on Twitter the US and the Netherlands signed an agreement detailing the access and use of facilities in Curacao as a humanitarian hub for aid to Venezuela.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has refused to let foreign aid into Venezuela, despite a deep economic crisis marked by shortages of food and medicine and hyperinflation. Maduro has called US-led aid efforts a veiled invasion meant to push him from power.

IDB first multilateral lender to recognise Guaido’s envoy

The Inter-American Development Bank on Friday voted to replace the representative of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro with an economist backed by opposition leader Juan Guaido, in a major setback for the Maduro government.

The decision makes the IADB, Latin America’s largest regional lender, the first financial institution to recognise Guaido and would eventually free up development lending to Venezuela if Maduro steps down.

Guaido, who has been recognised as the OPEC country’s legitimate leader by most Western countries, including the US and many in Latin America, named Harvard University economist Ricardo Hausmann as his representative to the IADB, forcing a vote by the lender’s 48-member board of governors just two weeks before its annual meeting in China.

US envoy: Venezuela oil production dropping steadily

The US special representative for Venezuela said on Friday that Venezuela’s oil exports have been dropping steadily by roughly 50,000 barrels per month and production is likely to dip below a million barrels a day within a “month or two”.

“They are heading down toward a million now, and in a month or two will be below a million” barrels per day, US envoy Elliott Abrams told a news briefing, adding that the decline seen in recent days could partly be attributed to the blackouts that had crippled the country. “It’s a steady decline,” he added.

The OPEC member’s oil production has dwindled in the last two decades, from more than 3 million bpd at the beginning of the century to between 1.2 million and 1.4 million bpd by late 2018. Most of the crude it produces now is heavy or extra heavy.

American Airlines pilots told by union not to fly to Venezuela

American Airlines Group Inc pilots should not fly to Venezuela, an influential pilots union said on Friday, following a travel advisory issued by the US State Department this week.

The department cited civil unrest, poor health and arbitrary arrest and detention of US citizens in Venezuela for issuing the advisory.

“Do not accept any trips to Venezuela,” the Allied Pilots Association said in a statement.

A number of airlines have stopped their flights to the country because of security concerns and disputes over money they say the government owes them. United Airlines ended its flights to Venezuela in 2017.

Military intervention not an answer for Venezuela: Colombia president

Military intervention in Venezuela is not the way to resolve the crisis in the country, Colombia’s President Ivan Duque said in an interview in Italian daily Il Sole 24 Ore published on Friday.

“I do not think the solution is a military intervention,” Duque told the newspaper when asked about any proposed intervention, especially by the US.

US President Donald Trump has taken steps to ratchet up pressure on Maduro and bolster Guaido, recognised by the US and more than 50 other countries, including Colombia. But Washington has dismissed as baseless suggestions it is planning to intervene militarily.

Bolivia’s Morales: Venezuela needs dialogue, not foreign meddling

Bolivia’s leftist President Evo Morales, a supporter of Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro, said on Friday that European nations should support a dialogue within the country.

Morales, who is on a visit to Greece, said meddling in the domestic affairs of another country never bodes well.

“History has taught that there have been many interventions from the outside, such as the case of Libya and Iraq, and they never offered a solution”, Morales said in translated comments after meeting Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras. “On the contrary it abolished democracy,” he said.

Morales is one of a few Latin American leaders to support the embattled Maduro, whose country has been reeling from a humanitarian crisis.

Thursday, March 14

US revoked more than 340 visas from Venezuelans since Monday

The US has revoked hundreds of visas from Venezuelans since Monday, nearly a third of which belonged to former diplomats from Venezuela and their families, and is urging US citizens in Venezuela to flee the country days after the US withdrew its diplomats from Venezuela, the State Department said on Thursday.

“Since this Monday … we have revoked 340 visas, 107 of which include visas of Maduro’s former diplomats and their families,” State Department spokesman Robert Palladino told reporters.

The US has been stepping up actions against President Nicolas Maduro’s government as it tries to pressure Maduro to step down.

US considering sanctions to restrict Visa, Mastercard in Venezuela: Official

The US is considering imposing financial sanctions that could prohibit Visa, Mastercard and other financial institutions from processing transactions in Venezuela, a senior Trump administration said on Thursday.

The move, which has not been finalised, would be a significant ratcheting up of pressure on the government of President Nicolas Maduro and his supporters.

“The purpose of these sanctions is to continue to deprive the illegitimate Maduro regime of access to funds and deny their ability to continue stealing from the Venezuelan people,” the official said.

Pompeo: All US diplomats have left Venezuela

The US has withdrawn all remaining diplomatic personnel from its embassy in Caracas as the crisis in Venezuela deepens.

“Today, all US diplomats remaining in Venezuela departed the country. I know it is a difficult moment for them,” US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement on Thursday.

He said the US remains committed to supporting opposition leader Juan Guaido, who wants to remove Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and hold elections.

The embassy closure is set to worsen already tattered relations with US President Donald Trump, who has not ruled out military intervention to overthrow Maduro as Washington monitors rapidly unfolding events in the oil-rich but crippled South American nation.

House bills meant to step pressure on Venezuela’s Maduro

The House Foreign Affairs Committee has approved bills intended to step up US pressure against Maduro’s government.

The first bill would add new restrictions on the export of tear gas, riot gear and other ítems that can be used to control crime.

The second measure urges the Trump administration to provide up to $150m in humanitarian aid. Additionally, the State Department and intelligence agencies will be required to provide an assessment of a threat of Russian influence in Venezuela.

US diplomats in Venezuela prepare to head home

The last US diplomats in Venezuela are at the country’s main airport, preparing to head home amid deteriorating ties between Washington and President Maduro, a US official said.

Earlier on Thursday, a convoy was seen leaving the US Embassy in Caracas.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tweeted this week that the diplomats were being withdrawn because they had become a “constraint” on US policy.

The Venezuelan government disputed Pompeo’s account, saying it had instructed the US diplomats to leave.

Diplomats walk out of UN conference

Diplomats walked out of a UN convention on drugs addressed by Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza, saying his government was illegitimate and did not represent the country.

Dozens of officials from Latin America, as well as the US, Canada and some European countries, including France, left the room in protest as Arreaza took the podium for the meeting of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) in Vienna.

Multiple diplomats, including from Latin America and Europe, staged a walk-out last month during an Arreaza address to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva when he called for direct talks between Maduro and US President Donald Trump about the country’s crisis.

Wednesday, March 13

Food supplier reports looting

Venezuela’s largest private food supplier says massive looting and vandalism occurred at four facilities in the city of Maracaibo during nationwide power outages, complicating efforts to distribute food and drinks to people in the area.

Empresas Polar says that the distribution centre and a production plant for Pepsi-Cola Venezuela were hit during unrest after blackouts started a week ago. So were a pasta plant and a beer distributor.

It reports the loss of large quantities of food, water and other drinks, vehicles, computers, office furniture and other items.

China offers help to restore power 

China has offered to help Venezuela as it faces a crippling multi-day power blackout that President Nicolas Maduro blames on the US.

“China hopes that Venezuela can quickly find the cause of this accident and restore normal power and social order,” foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang says at a regular briefing.

“China is willing to offer assistance and technical support to Venezuela to restore the power system,” Lu says.

Tuesday, March 12

Journalist Luis Carlos Diaz released 

Luis Carlos Diaz has been released after being detained for 24 hours.

His release has been confirmed by the National Press Workers Union (SNTP).

Diaz was charged with instigating crime and barred from leaving the country without authorisation SNTP says, he must appear before a court every eight days, the group adds. 

Guaido: People took to the streets in peace 

“[People in] #Caracas took to the streets in peace, convinced of what we have achieved and what we are about to achieve,” Guaido writes.

“In Bello Monte, El Valle, Santa Monica and Montalban, the people shouted with vigour against oppression, darkness and usurpation.”

Mogherini: Solution cannot be imposed from the outside

European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini says no military action from inside or outside Venezuela would be acceptable to resolve the “dramatically” deteriorating situation in the country.

She tells the UN Security Council in New York that “a solution cannot be, and should never be, imposed from the outside.”

But she says that “an international initiative can help build a peaceful and democratic way out of the crisis.”

Mogherini also says the EU is also working with UN agencies “to ensure that humanitarian aid reaches those in need inside and outside of the country following the key principles of humanitarian law, and avoiding any politicisation of the aid delivery.”

Colombia: Maduro relatives seek outage relief

Colombian authorities say ten people close to Maduro tried to enter the country Monday seeking relief from the power outage.

According to officials, the leader’s cousin, Argimiro Maduro, along with his spouse, children and extended relatives complained the heat was unbearable and said they wanted to spend five days in Riohacha until service is restored.

Colombia Migration Director Christian Kruger says the relatives were on the no-entry list.
He adds that Colombia will not allow Maduro’s relatives to vacation while “avoiding the reality of a people in agony.”

US plans additional sanctions 

The US is prepared to impose “very significant” additional sanctions against financial institutions over the situation in Venezuela in the coming days, US special envoy Elliott Abrams says.

Abrams did not elaborate on the fresh measures. 

Abrams also told reporters at the State Department that Washington is in talks with other countries about security arrangements for the US embassy in Venezuela after deciding to withdraw its remaining diplomats.

Nicolas Maduro: I will never fail you

“I will always be with the people, facing every imperial aggression and fighting for our right to be a free and sovereign Republic,” Maduro writes on Twitter.

“Be assured that, from this complex and difficult battle, sooner rather than later, we will be victorious. I will never fail you!”

Protest for the release of Luis Carlos Diaz 

A protest is underway to demand the release of Venezuelan journalist Luis Carlos Diaz.

“Workers of the Press and civil society protest before the Public Ministry to demand the release and respect of the rights of journalist and activist Luis Carlos Diaz,” the Committee to Protect Journalists writes on Twitter.

Bachelet: Concern about the reported detention of journalist

“We are deeply concerned about the reported detention of prominent journalist Luis Carlos Diaz by Venezuelan intelligence services, and about his well-being,” Bachelet writes on Twitter.

“The UN human rights technical mission in Caracas has asked the Government for urgent access to Diaz.”

State prosecutor says will investigate Guaido for ‘sabotage’

Venezuela’s state prosecutor says he will investigate opposition leader Juan Guaido for “sabotage” as a nationwide power blackout entered its fifth day.

Public prosecutor Tarek William Saab tells reporters in Caracas an investigation was being opened “against the citizen Juan Guaido for his alleged involvement in the sabotage of the Venezuelan electricity system.”

Government: Electricity restored ‘almost in its entirety’

The Venezuelan Minister of Communication, Jorge Rodriguez says that “electric service in the country is almost restored.”

“At this time almost all of the electricity supply has been restored throughout the national territory,” Rodriguez says, according to local reports.  

Venezuela’s Communications Minister Jorge Rodriguez talks to the media [Ivan Alvarado/Reuters]

FM: US diplomats must leave within three days 

Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza says US diplomats on Venezuelan soil must leave within three days after talks broke down over maintaining diplomatic “interest sections” in the two countries.

“The presence on Venezuelan soil of these officials represents a risk for the peace, unity and stability of the country,” the government says in a statement.

The US State Department had announced on Monday it will withdraw its staff from Venezuela this week, saying their presence had become “a constraint on US policy.”

CPJ: Authorities should release Luis Carlos Diaz 

Venezuelan authorities should immediately release journalist Luis Carlos Diaz, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) says.

 “Without electricity, much of the Venezuelan public is already deprived of access to information from TV, radio, and the internet in the midst of an emergency. Harassing and jailing journalists will only exacerbate the crisis,” CPJ Central and South America Programme Coordinator Natalie Southwick declares.

Russia’s Rosneft says US statements on its operation groundless 

Russia’s top oil producer Rosneft says that US statements that it has violated US sanctions in its Venezuela activities were “groundless accusations”.

Pompeo said this week Rosneft was defying US sanctions by buying oil from Venezuelan state oil firm PDVSA.

Rosneft says it is not involved in politics and was conducting “purely commercial operations” in line with international law. It says any contracts were secured before the latest US sanctions were imposed in January and it might seek legal action to defend itself if necessary.

Monday, March 11

Intelligence agents detain journalist 

Venezuelans authorities have detained radio journalist Luis Carlos Diaz.

Family members lost contact with Diaz at around 5:30pm local time when he was detained by intelligence service agents, according to news reports.

During a television show, Diosdado Cabello shows a video clip of Diaz and accuses him of “sabotage” saying that he has played a role in the electricity outage.

Diaz is reportedly now being held in El Helicoide political prison.

US announces withdrawal of diplomatic personnel

The US is to withdraw all remaining diplomatic personnel from Venezuela this week, the US State Department has announced.

“Like the January 24 decision to withdraw all dependents and reduce embassy staff to a minimum, this decision reflects the deteriorating situation in Venezuela as well as the conclusion that the presence of U.S. diplomatic staff at the embassy has become a constraint on US policy,” the State Department says.

It did not say on what day the personnel would be withdrawn from the embassy in Caracas.

Guaido calls for more protests

Juan Guaido has called for marches on Tuesday, at 3:00pm local time, to protest the electrical blackout that hit Venezuela.

US sanctions Russian bank for link to PDVSA

The US has sanctioned a Russian bank over its alleged dealings with Venezuela’s state-owned oil company PDVSA.

Moscow-based Evrofinance Mosnarbank, which is jointly owned by Russian and Venezuelan state-owned companies, is now in a list of sanctioned individuals and entities due to its alleged attempts to circumvent US restrictions placed on PDVSA by offering the company financial, material and technological support.

“This action demonstrates that the US will take action against foreign financial institutions that sustain the illegitimate Maduro regime and contribute to the economic collapse and humanitarian crisis plaguing the people of Venezuela,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin says in a statement.

Venezuelans scramble for food and water 

Much of Venezuela, including parts of the capital Caracas, remains without power for a fifth day, crimping vital oil exports and leaving people struggling to obtain water and food.

Maduro again ordered the suspension of classes and the working day, as he had on Friday.

The lack of electricity has aggravated a crisis in Venezuelan hospitals, also lacking investment and maintenance in addition to the shortage of medicines.

Dr Julio Castro, of the non-governmental group Doctors for Health, said in a Twitter message on Sunday night that 21 people have died in public hospitals since the start of the blackout.

People collect water released through a sewage drain that feeds into the Guaire River in Caracas [Carlos Garcia Rawlins/Reuters]

Jose oil port unable to resume exports – Reuters

Venezuela’s state-run PDVSA oil firm has been unable to resume exports at Jose port, the nation’s primary crude-export terminal, following last week’s widespread power outage, according to people familiar with the matter.

PDVSA has launched a contingency plan to try and restore power, according to one of the people.

The country’s crude upgraders, which convert up to 700,000 barrels per day of Orinoco Belt heavy oil into exportable grades, also are operating at minimum levels due to the lack of power, the people said. 

Sunday, March 10

NYT’s report: Video contradicts claim that Maduro burned aid convoy

On February 24, the US administration accused Nicolas Maduro’s government of torching a convoy of humanitarian aid amid a civil plight. 

Senator Marco Rubio accused Maduro of “committing a crime,” while White House National Security Adviser John Bolton said the Venezuelan president had sent “masked thugs” to set the cargo alight. 

But the New York Times (NYT) has published footage that suggests that a Molotov cocktail thrown by an anti-government protester was the trigger for the blaze.

“At one point, a homemade bomb made from a bottle is hurled toward the police, who were blocking a bridge connecting Colombia and Venezuela to prevent the aid trucks from getting through,” the report reads.

“But the rag used to light the Molotov cocktail separates from the bottle, flying toward the aid truck instead. Half a minute later, that truck is in flames,” it adds. 

The media outlet is not the first one to debunk the claim that Maduro was behind the fire.

On February 24, several independent journalists pointed out that a different situation took place: 

Government suspends school, and business activities on Monday

Venezuela is suspending school and business activities on Monday amid a continuing blackout, Information Minister Jorge Rodriguez says.

This is the second such cancellation since the power went out last week.

Guaido wants national emergency declared

Guaido says a state of emergency should be declared in the country over the ongoing power outages.

In parts of Venezuela, there has been no electricity since Thursday evening. The restoration of the electricity supply is progressing slowly and keeps suffering setbacks.

Guaido says the National Assembly, which is controlled by the opposition, should declare a national emergency in a special meeting.

“We can not turn our faces to the tragedy that our country is experiencing.” Guaido writes. 

“I have called for an extraordinary session in the National Assembly tomorrow, where I will request, in my capacity as president, to decree a state of national emergency, based on article 338 of our constitution.”

Maduro seems set on staying put: US envoy 

There are no signs Maduro is open to negotiations to end the political impasse with Juan Guaido, Washington’s envoy for Venezuela says.

Abrams, however, plays down any possibility that the Venezuelan president was ready to talk about his exit. “From everything we have seen, Maduro’s tactic is to stay put,” Abrams says.

Abrams has met with Russian representatives to the US about Moscow’s support for Maduro. 

“The Russians are not happy with Maduro for all the obvious reasons,” Abrams says. “In a couple of conversations, I have been told they have given advice to Maduro and he doesn’t take it.”

“They continue to support him and there is no indication that I have seen that they are telling him it’s time to bring this to an end,” he says, adding: “There could come a point where the Russians reach a conclusion that the regime is really unsalvageable.”

US special envoy for Venezuela Elliott Abrams believes Maduro is not open to negotiations [Alex Brandon/AP]

Fourth day of blackout 

Venezuelans wake up to the fourth day of a nationwide blackout, leaving residents concerned about the impacts of the lack of electricity on the country’s health, communications and transport systems.

The blackout, which began Thursday afternoon, keeps increasing frustration among Venezuelans already suffering widespread food and medicine shortages. 

Food is rotting in refrigerators, people walk for miles to work with the Caracas subway down, and relatives abroad anxiously wait for updates from family members with telephone and internet signals intermittent.

Hospitals are also struggling, Julio Castro, who leads an NGO called Doctors for Health, says that at least 13 people have died amid the blackout. His statement could not be independently verified.

“What can you do without electricity?” says Leonel Gutierrez, a 47-year-old systems technician, as he carried his six-month-old daughter on his way to buy groceries. “The food we have has spoiled.”

A child is seen inside a closed shop during the second day of a blackout in Caracas [Carlos Jasso/Reuters]

Saturday, March 9

Marco Rubio: A horror movie 

US Senator Marco Rubio, who has been accused by the government of being responsible for the blackout suffered in Venezuela, writes on Twitter that what is happening in the country is like “a horror movie”.

Maduro blames blackouts on US weapons

Maduro says that his country’s recent complete electrical failure was caused by “an international cyber attack.”

“I will tell this for the first time,” Maduro tells a crowd in Caracas.

“We are in the process of investigation, and correcting it all because there are many infiltrators attacking from within the electrical company.”

“The right wing, together with the empire, has stabbed the electricity system, and we are trying to cure it soon.” 

The president also says Guaido is a puppet of Washington and dismisses his claim to the presidency as an effort by the administration of Trump to control Venezuela’s oil wealth.

Guaido: We need to be united 

Juan Guaido calls on citizens to keep united and protesting. 

“We will continue to mobilise,” local media reports. 

“We have to seize [more] spaces, as we did today in the Libertador municipality (…) We have to [do it] in a peaceful way, we must unite and come together,” he says.

“I come to ask for your trust. We can not be victims of misinformation,” he adds.

Guaido warns that hard days will come. “The [government] will try to divide us.”

“They want to demobilise us, it’s up to us. Let’s not fall, the game is to be united, together.”

Juan Guaido attends a rally against Nicolas Maduro’s government in Caracas [Ivan Alvarado/Reuters]

Nicolas Maduro: Yankee Go Home!

As government supporters take out to the streets in support of Nicolas Maduro, he writes on Twitter it’s time for the US to go home.

“Today when the US empire, in its desperation to get hold of our natural resources, intensifies its brutal aggressions against the Homeland, we firmly stand up to defend our land and scream with force: Yankee Go Home! We are Anti-imperialists!,” he writes on Twitter. 

‘Protesters take over the streets’ 

Opposition protesters have accessed a part of western Caracas after “pushing hard.”

“Very early in the morning there were lots of tensions because the police wouldn’t allow people here,” Al Jazeera’s Teresa Bo reports from western Caracas. 

“After pushing hard protesters took over the streets.

“The government has been really careful in not repressing people, especially after the US has threatened with serious actions if they touch people like Juan Guaido or protesters,” Bo says. 

Police block opposition protesters

Riot police are blocking protesters in western Caracas as hundreds of people are taking to the streets. 

“We want to march! Yes, we can!” the opposition protesters are heard shouting, as riot police prevent them from accessing the area where their demonstration is due to take place.

Government supporters are in the streets

The ruling Socialist Party has called for a march near the presidential palace in central-west Caracas to protest against what it calls US imperialism, which has levied crippling oil sanctions on Maduro’s government in efforts to cut off its sources of funding.

“Today we are – more than ever before – anti-imperialists,” Maduro writes on Twitter.

“We will never give up.”

 Government supporters are seen in the streets [AFP]

Guaido: People will surprise [the government]

For his part, Guaido also writes on Twitter:  “They think they can scare us, but the people and the street will surprise them.

“They intend to wear us down, but they can’t contain a nation that is determined to stop the usurpation.

“Today we will show them in the streets.”

‘Extremely tense situation’

Al Jazeera’s Teresa Bo, reporting from Caracas, says opposition supporters have started gathering in western Caracas to protest against Maduro’s policies.

“It’s an extremely tense situation because the Bolivarian National Guard and the police are just about half away from the block [away] … and people are screaming on their faces, telling them to join in, in their fight against Maduro,” she says.

Opposition supporters take part in anti-Maduro rally [Carlos Garcia Rawlins/Reuters]

Friday, March 8

Maduro, Guaido rallies set for Saturday

Thousands of Venezuelans are expected to take to the streets on Saturday as Guaido cranks up the pressure on Maduro. 

Both men, who are locked in a bitter power struggle for the right to lead the oil-rich South American nation, have asked their supporters to fill the streets of Caracas and other cities.

“The US Empire, once again, underestimates the conscience and determination of the Venezuelan people,” Maduro writes on Twitter.

“I assure you, that every attempt at imperial aggression will be met with a strong response.”

Guaido also makes a call on Twitter: 

“Tomorrow, I call on the Venezuelan people to make a huge statement in the streets against the usurper, corrupt and incapable regime that has plunged our country into darkness.” 

“We return to the streets and we won’t leave until we reach the goal,” writes the 35-year-old National Assembly leader.

Power restored to parts of Venezuela

A blackout is reported to have hit 22 of 23 states, striking during the peak of evening rush hour on Thursday. 

By early Friday afternoon, residents and state broadcaster VTV report that power is starting to return to parts of Caracas. Neither Socialist Party officials nor state power company Corpoelec has provided further updates on the situation.

“Today the [government says] the blackout, of more than 15 hours, is the product of external sabotage,” Guaido says on Twitter. 

“Sabotage is stealing money from Venezuelans. Sabotage is burning food and medicine. Sabotage is stealing elections.”

Regional lender to vote on Venezuela’s opposition representative

Member countries of the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB) will vote the next week on accepting a representative from Fuaido to the board of the regional lender, bank officials say.

The 48-member board of governors will have until Friday, March 15, to vote on the issue. It is not clear what would happen to Maduro’s representative on the board.

Guaido, who has the support of 57 countries, has named Harvard University economist Ricardo Hausmann as the country’s representative to the IADB.

Ex-Venezuelan vice president accused of aiding drug dealers 

Former Venezuelan Vice President Tareck El Aissami has been criminally charged in New York federal court, accused of using his office to aid international drug traffickers.

El Aissami and a Venezuelan businessman, Samark Jose Lopez Bello, were charged on Friday with violating the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act and US Treasury Department sanctions. 

US Attorney Geoffrey Berman said El Aissami, now Venezuela’s minister of industry and national production, hired US companies to provide private jets in violation of sanctions.

Angel Melendez, who heads New York’s US Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations, said El Aissami and Lopez Bello are now wanted in New York.

US gives time for Venezuela sanctions compliance

The Trump administration is granting US companies more time to comply with sanctions barring transactions with Venezuela’s state-run oil company. 

The Treasury Department said firms have until May 10 to wind down and close their business with oil company PDVSA.

PDVSA was hit with US sanctions on January 28 in a step that caught some American companies by surprise. The sanctions had the effect of stranding several oil tankers at and near Venezuelan ports because their cargoes were unable to be legally paid for.

Treasury said on Friday the extension will allow certain financial contracts agreed upon before January 28 to be completed.

US will not use force to deliver aid: Trump’s Venezuela envoy

The US will not use force to deliver humanitarian aid to Venezuela, US President Donald Trump’s special representative for Venezuela said on Friday, after Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s forces blocked aid convoys at the border last month.

“The US government has said that we will not use force to deliver that aid, and the Colombian government has said the same thing, so obviously we agree with that view and would not be involved in any actions that would be contrary to that view,” the envoy, Elliott Abrams, told reporters.

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 mass emigration of more than three million citizens.

Critics say corruption and underinvestment 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 US 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 US warned it may expand the measures it has imposed targeting 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 spoke to supporters at a Caracas demonstration after he returned to the country despite warnings he might face arrest.

Guaido was greeted with cheers and applause at the rally of several thousand people in the Las Mercedes neighbourhood in the Venezuelan capital. He told 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 at a rally held by his supporters against Nicolas Maduro’s government [Manaure Quintero/Reuters]

Guaido: We’ve entered Venezuela

The opposition leader announced 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 wrote 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.

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

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

Guaido supporters gather in Caracas

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

“He’s going to enter the country under their noses,” says Maria Garrido, 62, attending the rally from El Cafetal, “That boy has proven to be smarter than the whole government.”

Antonio Rangel, an unemployed engineer who now sells bread and sweets to support his family, is hopeful.

“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 Alfredo Sadel square, [people are here] in support of Juan Guaido. 

Reporting by Erika Fiorucci from Caracas

Guaido on his way home 

Guaido says he is on his way home.

Guaido tweeted an audio message announcing he is heading back to Venezuela, though details about his exact whereabouts remain 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

Maduro welcomed Carnival season on Twitter, writing: “I invite Venezuelan families to enjoy the festivities and the natural beauty that our beloved Venezuela offers us.”

US warns Venezuela ahead of Guaido’s arrival

The US 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 US 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 US 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.”

For all previous updates, click here. 

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