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On one side of the tussle for control of Venezuela - an OPEC member with the world's largest oil reserves but in dire financial straits - Guaido and Western backers led by the U.S. are insisting on an immediate transition and fresh elections. "It's time for Maduro to get out of the way".

Guaido has called for a new, fair presidential election after the disputed vote won by Maduro previous year.

"In a few weeks they will have to choose if they let much needed aid into the country. or if they side with Nicolas Maduro", said Guaido, who recently offered an amnesty to members of the military in another effort to encourage them to defect from the Maduro administration.

Speaking from behind a podium decorated with Venezuela's presidential seal, Guaido told supporters he would keep his opposition movement in the streets until Maduro stopped "usurping" the presidency and agreed to a presidential election overseen by global observers.

Xiomara Espinoza, 59, said she felt a change of energy in the crowd, whose hopes for a political transition in Venezuela have previously been dashed.

Venezuelan exiles who fled their homeland are telling U.S. Vice President Mike Pence that the moment has come to intervene and overthrow President Nicolas Maduro.

The Venezuelan opposition leader challenging Nicolas Maduro's claim to the presidency warned officers from a feared state security unit Thursday to stay away from his family after he accused them of showing up at his apartment in a tense brush with the very force he is trying to persuade to switch allegiance and back him.

The U.S. has led an global campaign to apply economic and diplomatic pressure on Maduro, including sanctioning on Monday the country's state-owned oil company and a joint venture with its Nicaraguan counterpart.

Chevron has four joint-venture operations for exploration and production with PDVSA, as the Venezuelan company is known. But he reassured them President Donald Trump's administration would further weaken Maduro. He spoke Friday in a conference call with Wall Street analysts.

The U.S. State Department, meanwhile, said Americans shouldn't travel to Venezuela, warning of unrest, the threat of being arbitrarily arrested and the danger of mass demonstrations erupting with little notice.

He says most of the Venezuelan crude oil it buys goes to its Pascagoula refinery in Mississippi. "We started to make noise", he said.

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Most Latin American countries have done so as well, while European governments are also throwing their support behind Guaido, albeit more cautiously.

This month's protests have received overwhelming support from overseas, with the U.S., Canada and many others already recognizing Guaido as Venezuela's legitimate leader.

Pence shared the stage with Republican senators Marco Rubio and Rick Scott, Representative Mario Diaz-Balart, and Governor Ron DeSantis.

The Supreme Court approved a request from Venezuelan Attorney-General Tarek Saab to open a preliminary investigation into Mr Guaido based on accusations he helped foreign countries interfere in internal matters.

Francisco Sucre heads the global committee of the opposition-led National Assembly in Venezuela.

He has accused the USA of orchestrating a coup against his government but said he is open to dialogue with the opposition, but not new national elections.

In comments to reporters, Guaido later thanked his neighbors who rushed to the apartment banging pots and pans to call attention to the police visit.

Still, Maduro is clinging to power, and intimidating the opposition while he's at it. Sen. "Maduro has to leave", Sucre told The Associated Press in Madrid, where he is wrapping up a three-day European tour to enlist support for Guaido.

"The English stole the gold in the Bank of England", Diosdado Cabello, the powerful No. 2 in Maduro's socialist party, said in a speech broadcast on state television this week.

Guaido has promised a transitional government and free elections to end the rule of the socialist Maduro regime, which has overseen the once-wealthy oil nation's descent into economic collapse and a humanitarian crisis.


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