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Forces arrest ‘terrorists’ plotting against Maduro – Venezuelan crisis

EU is calling for the country to hold fresh elections while the US has already recognised Venezuela’s opposition leader, Juan Guaido, as the country’s interim president.

A supporter of Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro holds a banner depicting him as he takes part in a gathering outside the Miraflores Palace in Caracas, Venezuela January 26, 2019.
A supporter of Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro holds a banner depicting him as he takes part in a gathering outside the Miraflores Palace in Caracas, Venezuela January 26, 2019. (Reuters)

Thursday, January 31 

Plot to kill Maduro busted – officials 

Venezuelan officials on Thursday said security forces took down a “terrorist” group backed by political opponents plotting to assassinate President Nicolas Maduro.

Interior Minister Nestor Reverol said that retired National Guard Col Oswaldo Garcia Palomo was among those detained.

Palomo has been an outspoken critic of Maduro and for months has declared his intention to amass a military force in exile to topple him.

Reverol accuses Colombian intelligence, the CIA and exiled Venezuelan lawmaker Julio Borges of being behind the alleged mercenary group.

EU agrees to lead Venezuela crisis group

The EU announced the creation of an international contact group of European and Latin American countries to help chart a peaceful end to Venezuela’s political crisis within 90 days.

EU diplomatic chief Federica Mogherini said the group would aim to “build trust and create conditions necessary for a credible process to emerge… enabling Venezuelans to determine their own future through the holding of new elections”.

Guaido says security forces threatening his family

Venezuela’s self-proclaimed president Juan Guaido accused socialist leader Nicolas Maduro’s security forces of trying to intimidate his family.

Guaido said the security service FAES had gone to his house asking for his wife, Fabiana.

“The dictatorship thinks it will intimidate us,” Guaido said during a speech at the main university in the capital Caracas.

The 35-year-old president of the National Assembly said he had a 20-month old daughter at home and would be holding FAES accountable for “whatever they do to my baby.”

EU parliament recognises Guaido as interim president

The European Parliament recognised Venezuela’s self-declared interim president Juan Guaido as the de-facto head of state, a symbolic step that lawmakers said was designed to keep pressure onPresident Nicolas Maduro.

EU lawmakers voted in a non-binding resolution to recognise Guaido as interim leader and called on all EU governments to follow suit.

Release foreign journalists – EU’s top diplomat

Venezuelan authorities must immediately release three detained foreign journalists and a driver, the European Union’s top diplomat said on Thursday.

“There is a clear call from my side to release immediately your colleagues in Caracas,” EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini told reporters in Bucharest after a meeting of EU defence ministers.

“We firmly believe that all journalists should be able to exercise their duties, responsibilities and rights in their work,” Mogherini said.

Opposition meets military

Venezuela’s opposition has had clandestine meetings with members of the country’s military and security forces, Venezuela’s self-proclaimed interim president, Juan Guaido, said in an opinion piece published on Wednesday.

“The transition will require support from key military contingents. We have had clandestine meetings with members of the armed forces and the security forces,” Guaido said in an opinion piece published by the New York Times. “The military’s withdrawal of support from Mr. (President Nicolas) Maduro is crucial to enabling a change in government.”

Spain condemns media arrests in Venezuela

The Spanish government has condemned the detention of three reporters and a driver working for Spain’s state-run EFE news agency in Venezuela’s capital.

Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez’s office issued a statement calling for their immediate release.

EFE has reported that Colombian photographer Leonardo Munoz disappeared on Wednesday morning in Caracas and that two more reporters, Spaniard Gonzalo Dominguez and Colombian Mauren Barriga, were later taken away from their office by members of Venezuelan intelligence service Sebin, according to EFE.

Spain’s government says a Venezuelan driver working for the news agency was also taken into custody.

He wasn’t identified.

Wednesday, January 30

Mexico, Uruguay convene meeting of ‘neutral’ countries

Mexico and Uruguay on Wednesday announced they would convene an international conference for countries and bodies with a “neutral position” to discuss the political crisis in Venezuela.

The two countries have not yet recognised the claim by National Assembly leader Guaido to be acting president in place of leader Nicolas Maduro.

The conference, announced on the website of the Uruguayan presidency, is due to take place in Montevideo on February 7.

Prevent ‘Vietnam in Latin America’ – Maduro 

President Maduro pressed his case directly to the American people, asking for their help in preventing a “Vietnam in Latin America.”

In a 45-second video released early Wednesday and shot from the presidential palace and addressed to “the American people”, Maduro said that the Trump administration is behind an attempt to overthrow him in a coup.

He said the US is looking to get its hands on Venezuela’s abundant oil reserves, replicating US military interventions in Iraq and Libya.

Maduro ready for talks

Maduro said calls to hold early presidential elections amounted to blackmail and that the countries calling for them must wait until 2025, Russia’s RIA news agency reported on Wednesday.

Maduro said he was prepared to hold negotiations with the US-backed opposition and added he would support early parliamentary elections.

“I am ready to sit at the negotiation table with the opposition for us to talk for the benefit of Venezuela, for the sake of peace and its future,” Maduro said in an interview with Russia’s state news agency RIA.

Maduro also said Russian President Vladimir Putin had promised him more economic and military support during phone talks last week.

Venezuela will meet its financial obligations to Moscow and Beijing, Maduro said.

The comments came a day after Russia said Caracas could have problems servicing its debt to Moscow after Washington imposed sweeping sanctions on Venezuela’s state oil company.

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