Venezuela calls on Russia to expand military support as new US sanctions hit
Russia warns of; dire consequences in case of further US intervention in Venezuela
WASHINGTON – Unrest in Venezuela turns into rhetorical battlefield between the US and Russia.
After a telephone conversation between US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, the head of Russian diplomacy said that the continuation of “aggressive steps (by the US) is fraught with grave consequences.”.
The State Department was more restrained, only stating that Russian and Cuban interference is “destabilizing” for Venezuela.
However, White House National Security Advisor John Bolton said: “This is our hemisphere. This is not the place where Russia should get involved. This is a mistake on their part. This will not lead to better relations. “.
Pompeo reiterated on Wednesday that the US is ready to use military force in Venezuela.
“If this is what it takes, this is what the US will do,” he said..
But Pompeo and President Donald Trump did not indicate what might prompt the US to intervene militarily..
Meanwhile, a senior Cuban diplomat has denied US accusations that thousands of Cuban troops are in Venezuela..
“Cuba is not involved in any military or security operations in Venezuela,” Carlos Fernandez de Cossio, head of the US Department of Foreign Affairs of Cuba, told the Associated Press..
According to him, 20 thousand Cubans in Venezuela are mainly medical workers..
At the same time, he noted that, as partners in the hemisphere, Cuba and Venezuela have sovereign rights to cooperation in the military and intelligence fields..
Cuba and Russia are longtime allies of Venezuela and its socialist government. Russia provides economic support and military equipment to the Maduro government, while Venezuela sends billions of dollars of oil to Cuba in exchange for medical care.
Supporters of opposition leader Juan Guaido, who has been recognized as the legitimate president of Venezuela by the United States and more than 50 other countries, took to the streets on Wednesday, throwing stones at police, who responded with tear gas..
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Guaidó said a shift strike will begin in the country on Thursday, which will escalate into a general strike.
“We will stay on the streets until we achieve freedom for the Venezuelan people. The regime will try to intensify repression. He will try to chase me, ”he told demonstrators on Wednesday.
As head of the National Assembly-controlled opposition, Guaido exploited the constitution and declared the power of President Nicolas Maduro illegitimate, claiming that his December elections were rigged..
Millions of Venezuelans, tired of galloping inflation, food and fuel shortages, inadequate medical care and periodic power outages, are leaving the country.
Maduro accuses Guaido of attempting a coup with US and Colombian backing and claims the opposition will collapse.
He said the demonstrators would be prosecuted “for serious crimes committed against the constitution, the rule of law and the right to peace.”.
Neither Maduro nor Guaido, however, can succeed without the support of a powerful Venezuelan army. Although many members of the lower army have joined the opposition, Maduro still enjoys the support of generals and other members of the military establishment..