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Venezuela air force general defects from regime and backs opposition leader

Venezuela air force general defects from regime and backs opposition leader

Guaido's US representative Carlos Vecchio, who has been meeting with White House officials to discuss taking control of Venezuelan assets from the Maduro government, is also expected to attend the Miami event, the White House said.

The once stable South American country is stuck in a downward spiral of crippling inflation, widespread shortages and political discontent, with many Venezuelans placing blame for the crisis squarely at Maduro's feet.

In interviews and press conferences, Guaido has stressed again and again his team's push to safeguard Venezuela's assets so that they can be used to fund the flow of humanitarian aid. "We want you to be part of the reconstruction of Venezuela".

"Once more we'll come out victorious", said Maduro, who wore a green cap and shirt before rows of troops.

The United States has urged Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro to step down and let Guaido assume the presidency with Maduro responding that Washington is attempting to stage a coup d'etat in the country, and announcing a decision to cut off diplomatic ties with the US.

The opposition controls the National Assembly while government supporters control the more-powerful Constituent Assembly, so calls for a vote to replace the former and not the latter was seen as a move against Guaido.

"The dictatorship of Nicolas Maduro has not changed its position".

Yanez is the first active Venezuelan general to recognize Guaido since he proclaimed himself president on January 23. He considers Maduro's election win fraudulent.

The opposition seeks to usher in a transition by holding democratic elections, Guaido said in the letter to Uruguayan President Tabare Vazquez and Mexico's President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador.

Guaido explained that aid for Venezuela will include life-saving medicines that are scarce in Venezuela and will be transported by vehicles arriving at several border points, after it is shipped into "friendly ports" in neighbouring countries.

His defection is "a hard blow" to Maduro, said Rocio San Miguel, an expert on the Venezuelan military.

Maduro, wearing in a military hat, said he was firmly in control of the Venezuelan armed forces as commander in chief.

Mr Guaido's call for a massive show of popular support coincides with a huge pro-Maduro demonstration.

The Venezuelan air force posted a picture of Yanez on its Twitter account tagged with the word "traitor".

"We reject the declarations made by General Yanez who betrayed his oath of loyalty to our nation and chose to follow foreign plans", the command wrote.

"The opposition has been willing to negotiate".

A swift end to the tumult appears unlikely as both Guaido and Maduro dig in for a protracted conflict with geopolitical dimensions.

"What most suits Russian Federation and China is the country's stability and a change of government", he said.

Moises Naim, a former Venezuelan minister, last week declared that the "guys with guns" will ultimately determine the country's future, and at the moment the military looks unlikely to turn on their president.

American refineries could lose money now that they can't get their crude from Venezuela, Rystad Energy analyst Paola Rodriguez-Masiu said in a statement.

"As President Trump said just last week: The fight for freedom has begun", Pence said then abruptly had stopped because the room interrupted him with applause and exuberant cheers. "There is hope in Venezuela".