Linked contractors swoop in to guard Venezuela's Maduro

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There's an ongoing political crisis in Venezuela, where lots of people have been involved in violent protests.

The Venezuelan Observatory of Social Conflict said that 16 people have died in clashes over the past three days.

The Pentagon's negligible role in Venezuela contrasts sharply with the situation in the 1960s and '70s, when the oil-rich nation was a major US military partner and an important customer for sophisticated USA weaponry including F-16 fighter jets, said Evan Ellis, an expert in U.S.

So why are people fighting and what is going on? According to the State Department, over $140 million in humanitarian aid has been provided for Venezuelan refugees since the 2017 fiscal year.

The economy in Venezuela isn't doing well.

"They have no authority to carry weapons and to use those weapons outside the Embassy compound", said a former US official who is familiar with the USA presence in Caracas.

The public health system has collapsed, which means many can not get the medicine they need. He argues that addressing Venezuela's dependence on oil is the key to fixing the country, but neither Maduro nor his opposition dare confront the problem. The embattled ruler has long sought to maintain the military's favor by handing out lucrative posts and sinecures to the top generals, who in effect control the state oil monopoly.

He said they took off in two chartered planes for Cuba, from where they transferred onto regular commercial flights to Venezuela, where they were tasked with protecting Maduro from any attempts by opposition sympathizers in his own security forces to detain him.

Diplomats at the Organization of American States held an emergency meeting Thursday on the Venezuelan crisis, during which 16 nations recognized Guaido as interim president.

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Guaido is a very powerful government figure who disagrees with Maduro and he's claiming that because Maduro didn't win the election fairly the Presidency is up for grabs.

He escalated his campaign Wednesday by declaring that the constitution gives him, as president of the congress, the authority to take over as interim president and form a transitional government until he calls new elections.

Lots of countries have been getting involved in the dispute.

The success of the uprising will depend on whether the military and the regime's intelligence apparatus continue to support Maduro, analysts say. Canada, Argentina and Brazil also support the change.

Several former military leaders who remain in close contact with active troops said that for Guaido to even have a chance of winning over support from sectors of the military, he'd have to continue to galvanize the public and prove to skeptical military officers with much to lose that his promise of granting amnesty to those who promote change is honest.

Nicolás Maduro is refusing to back down.

Maduro's key ally Russian Federation denounced Guaido's bid as a "usurpation" of power and warned that "this is a direct path to lawlessness and bloodshed".

"It is noteworthy that Venezuela's intelligence services and police are able to cope with large-scale protests, so it is important to make sure that the current situation remains within the framework of the police rather than army operations", he explained. At the moment, they're still loyal to Maduro.