Canada Backs Venezuelan Opposition Leader As Interim President

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The coalition of Latin American governments that joined the quickly recognizing Juan Guaido as Venezuela's interim president came together over weeks of secret diplomacy that included whispered messages to activists under constant surveillance and a high-risk foreign trip by the opposition leader challenging President Nicolas Maduro for power, those involved in the talks said. The U.S. official spoke on condition of anonymity out of security concerns.

Maduro, in a fiery speech on Wednesday, said he was cutting off diplomatic relations with the United States for instigating a "coup" against him.

China's Foreign Ministry called on the stay out of the crisis, while Russia's deputy foreign minister warned the USA against any military intervention in Venezuela. Moscow will insist on compliance with global law, Russia's RIA news agency cited Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov as saying on Friday.

The State Department in a notice said it had "ordered non-emergency U.S. government employees to depart Venezuela".

Maduro said he welcomed a debate over Venezuela's situation and thanked Pompeo for making the United Nations request, in a jocular response during a Friday news conference.

In response, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said: "We warn against that".

A Reuters witness at around 8:30 a.m. local time (1230 GMT) saw a convoy of sport utility vehicles accompanied by police motorcycles and vehicles with flashing lights drive onto a Caracas highway in the direction of the airport.

Maduro quickly shot back, cutting off diplomatic relations with the USA and giving US diplomats 72 hours to leave the country.

Venezuela, an oil-rich country that has been hammered by lower global oil prices and economic sanctions imposed by the USA, has been in recession for almost all of Maduro's time in office.

Russia's Defence Ministry and Venezuela's Information Ministry did not respond to requests for comment about the contractors.

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Attention was focused on Venezuela's military, a traditional arbiter of political disputes in the country, as a critical indicator of whether the opposition will succeed in setting up a new government.

Guaido, who has galvanized Venezuela's opposition, proclaimed himself interim president on Wednesday.

However, he still has no control over the Venezuelan state and the military, which appears to still be loyal to Maduro despite a deep economic and political crisis. Guaido has promised future amnesties to military members if they disavow Maduro.

Mr Guaido's political mentor, Leopoldo Lopez, was arrested in 2014, one of dozens of opposition activists and leaders the government jailed for seeking to overthrow Mr Maduro through violent street demonstrations in 2014 and 2017.

TSJ President Maikel Moreno rejected any move "to usurp a popularly elected post", after Guaido declared himself interim president during an anti-government rally on Wednesday.

Guaido's father, who has lived in Spain for the last 16 years, has called on the military to drop its allegiance to Maduro. The UN urged dialogue in Caracas to avoid "disaster".

"We warn against that", he said.

Mr Trump promised to use the "full weight" of U.S. economic and diplomatic power to push for the restoration of Venezuela's democracy.

"We are still preparing for any potential change in the number of refugees and migrants leaving Venezuela", UNHCR spokeswoman Liz Throssell told a news briefing.