Maduro regime in disarray as Venezuelan military envoy to United States defects

Under pressure over video Venezuela's Guaido says met officials

Guaido 35 declared himself interim president on Wednesday after Maduro was sworn in for a second term

Venezuela's embattled President Nicolas Maduro rejected an worldwide ultimatum to call elections within eight days and said opposition leader Juan Guaido had violated the country's constitution by declaring himself leader. President Vladimir Putin called Maduro to express his "support". Many in the worldwide community condemned that vote and now consider the National Assembly, which Maduro has stripped of its power, the only legitimate institution. "Venezuela wants peace. and to guarantee peace, we have to be prepared", said Maduro.

The Venezuelan leader earlier gave United States diplomats until late Saturday to leave the country.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro rejected an ultimatum to call a national election within eight days, describing European countries as insolent for making it.

Such concepts of high finance make little sense to Pineda, who nonetheless said she is willing to eke out a meager existence if that is what it takes to get rid of Maduro.

The military has so far remained largely loyal to Maduro but opposition leader Guaido has tried to persuade them to switch sides.

"Any violence and intimidation against US diplomatic personnel, Venezuela's democratic leader, Juan Guaido, or the National Assembly itself would represent a grave assault on the rule of law and will be met with a significant response", US National Security Advisor John Bolton tweeted, without specifying what kind of response he meant.

The Venezuelan regime showed signs of disarray yesterday after its most senior military envoy in Washington announced he was defecting, and Mike Pompeo called on the world to "pick a side" in the escalating political crisis.

The US official, in turn, "reaffirmed the United States' strong support for interim President Guaido's leadership of Venezuela", the State Department said.

In a statement, Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne said Australia would support Mr Guaido until elections were called.

Guaido took a symbolic oath of office Wednesday proclaiming himself the nation's constitutional leader on grounds that Maduro's re-election past year was fraudulent - an allegation supported by the US, the European Union and many other nations.

The Vatican hasn't said if it would back opposition leader Juan Guaido in his claim for the presidency, which has been backed by the United States and other regional leaders.

Instead, the two countries will seek an agreement to replace the embassies with "Interest Offices" in their respective capitals within 30 days, the statement said. Russian Federation pushed back, saying the US was trying to engineer a coup in Caracas, while China said outside powers shouldn't interfere in the power struggle.

The top USA diplomat rapped China and Russian Federation for "propping up a failed regime in the hopes of recovering billions of dollars in ill-considered investments and assistance made over the years".

Rubio also has said that all USA options should be on the table, but he qualified that Sunday.

But Pompeo warned Maduro not to "test the United States on our resolve to protect our people".

"Let's not escalate tensions around Venezuela", he said at the end of the almost six hour council meeting.

Colonel Jose Luis Silva declared himself a supporter of Guaido, saying: 'He is the only legitimate president.' Hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans have taken to the streets this week to demand Maduro's resignation.

Maduro's reelection a year ago was contested by the opposition and rejected by the US, EU and United Nations as a sham - but he has until now retained the loyalty of the powerful military.

Venezuelan opposition sympathizers had been urging Guaido to assume the presidency since Maduro was inaugurated for a second term on January 10.

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