Venezuela's Maduro Rejects 'Imperialist' Demands for New Election: 'Wait Until 2025'

US gives Juan Guaido control over some Venezuelan assets

The US has been pressing all countries to part ways with President Nicolas Maduro and recognise Guaido as interim president

Last week the oil-rich but economically devastated Latin American country was plunged into uncertainty when the US-backed opposition leader Juan Guaido proclaimed himself "acting president".

Maduro accused an "oligarchy" in neighbouring Colombia of being behind an attempt by military deserters to drive a wedge between himself and his loyal forces, which are key to the leader's hold on power faced with mounting worldwide support for self-proclaimed acting president Juan Guaido.

Maduro escalated the situation in response to fresh sanctions imposed by the USA, which he claims is leading an "economic war" and attempted coup to oust him from power.

"With these measures, they intend to rob us", he said.

"They have prepared a campaign to justify a coup d'etat in Venezuela that has been prepared, financed, and actively supported by Donald Trump's administration, as the public knows".

Since swearing himself in as the rightful leader of Venezuela on January 23, Guaido has led a campaign to try to wrest control of government assets overseas, including bank accounts, gold holdings, properties and USA refining unit Citgo.

United States military invention is seen in Washington as highly unlikely, but President Donald Trump has repeatedly said "all options are on the table".

"I don't underestimate the threat of persecution at the moment", he added, "but here we are".

"To be able to achieve this task and to re-establish the constitution we need the agreement of all Venezuelans".

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Colombia on Wednesday barred entry to more than 200 people linked to Maduro's regime.

Despite an offer of amnesty to those who disavow the socialist leader, the military high command remains loyal to Maduro.

The Supreme Court, stacked with Maduro loyalists, has approved a preliminary investigation into Guaido's activities.

Despite the constant tensions between Washington and Caracas since the socialist regime of Hugo Chaves came to power 20 years ago, the USA has remained Venezuela's biggest single oil client.

"Join us!" the protesters cried out to a line of officers wearing helmets and carrying shields.

The United States, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Argentina, Peru, Ecuador and Paraguay have officially acknowledged Guaido as the legitimate interim head of Venezuela, while countries including Russian Federation and China backed Maduro.

A larger protest is planned for this Saturday.

The previously little-known Guaido has re-invigorated the opposition movement by pushing for three immediate goals: to end Maduro's "usurpation" of power, establish a transitional government, and hold a new presidential election.

One of Maduro's most prominent supporters, Diosdado Cabello, said in a speech on Wednesday that the only elections the government is considering are for National Assembly, now the only opposition-controlled body in Venezuela.

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Though the opposition largely boycotted the 2018 presidential election last May-and they were criticized as fraudulent by some-Maduro won with more than 67 percent of the vote.

Venezuelans took to the streets of Caracas Wednesday in response to Guaido's call for a peaceful, two-hour, midday protest "to demand that the armed forces side with the people".

Mr Guaido, who took the reins of leadership in the opposition-controlled Congress from a long list of better-known predecessors who have been exiled, outlawed or jailed, was dragged from an SUV just over a week ago by intelligence agents but was quickly released amid an global outcry.

Meanwhile, a rebel military officer who Mr Maduro has accused of plotting his overthrow has been arrested after sneaking back into Venezuela amid the country's upheaval. The two countries have a long history of ties and Maduro's predecessor Hugo Chavez, known for his tirades against the USA, was a welcome guest at the Kremlin.

A former union leader who succeeded his charismatic mentor, the late President Hugo Chavez, Maduro, 56, has overseen a shrinking economy and the migration of more than 3 million Venezuelans fleeing food and drug shortages and hyperinflation.

But buoyed by unprecedented worldwide criticism of Mr Maduro, anti-government forces have put aside their infighting and are projecting a united front.

But Maduro is holding firm in refusing to step down. As does Cuba, its political and military patron.

The United States has emerged as Guaido's most powerful ally, announcing on Tuesday that it was giving him control of Venezuela's USA bank accounts.

He has also been playing commander in chief, appearing last week at a military command meeting wearing camouflage fatigues and receiving the blessing of the defence minister, General Vladimir Padrino Lopez.

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