Maduro says ready to negotiate with opposition with int'l mediation

U.S. Warns Americans Not To Travel To Venezuela

More than 40 people are believed to have been killed in political violence last week, including 26 shot by pro-Government forces, five killed in house raids and 11 during looting, United Nations human rights spokesman Rupert Colville said.

Wednesday's protest was considered a crucial test for the reinvigorated opposition as it seeks to send a forceful message that Mr Maduro no longer has the people's backing and appeals to the military and the poor to shift loyalties that until recently looked solidly behind the president. No amount of pressure from inside or outside the country, can force him out with loyal troops.

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

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

The United States and several other countries have recognized Guaido as Venezuela's interim president.

"There's a Cold War atmosphere", says Thomas Posado, an expert in foreign relations at the Paris VIII university in France, but "it's a lot less ideological".

"Do you want a puppet of the gringos to govern Venezuela?" he asked the soldiers, who responded with a resounding: "No!"

The sanctions are also likely to hit daily life hard in Venezuela, where public spending is nearly entirely funded by oil revenues.

National security adviser John Bolton tweeted that traders should not deal in gold, oil or other commodities "being stolen" from the Venezuelan people, as opponents of Maduro's government anxious that a Russian-operated plane had shipped gold out of Caracas on Wednesday afternoon.

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In an interview with the German daily Bild, Guaido called on European Union countries to impose additional sanctions on Maduro's government.

The president said that he would like them to support the dialogue in Venezuela.

Another mass street demonstration is planned for Saturday.

A day earlier, he told Russia's state-owned RIA Novosti news agency that he would be willing to hold talks with Guaido "for the sake of Venezuela's peace and its future", backtracking from earlier comments.

This places the South American country, embroiled in an economic and political crisis, in the same category as countries like North Korea, Syria, Iran and Somalia.

Late Wednesday afternoon, President Donald Trump tweeted that he had spoken with Guaido that day to "congratulate him on his historic assumption of the presidency" and to reinforce "strong United States support for Venezuela's fight to regain its democracy".

Elections would merely give Maduro the chance to regain control of the National Assembly. The opposition argues Maduro's re-election last May was a sham.

Venezuela is the only country in the Western Hemisphere on the State Department's "Do Not Travel" list, although parts of Mexico where drug cartels and criminal gangs are most active are also designated Level 4. Abrams said action against Guaido would be "foolish". State TV broadcast pictures of him with his military.

On Tuesday, Maduro announced he would beef up the nation's defense by expanding Venezuela's civilian armed militia to 2 million members amid escalating tensions with the U.S.

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