USA announces Venezuelan sanctions in attempt to oust Maduro

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Mr Maduro, who has led the oil-rich nation since 2013 and has the support of the armed forces, has refused to stand down and rejected an global ultimatum to call elections within eight days.

Guaido's bid was swiftly endorsed by Canada, the United States and many Latin American countries.

"The people of Venezuela believe in each one of you", Silva said, handing them the leaflets.

His appeals have included promises of amnesty, and mass protests to dramatize the depth of popular opposition to Maduro, who has presided over a virtual collapse of the economy and a severe humanitarian crisis, with shortages of food and medicines.

Addressing soldiers in an appearance on state TV, Maduro asked whether they were plotting with the "imperialist" United States, which he accused of openly leading a coup against him.

It erupted when Guaido, the 35-year-old leader of Venezuela's opposition-controlled congress, declared before masses of supporters last week that he has temporarily assumed presidential powers, vowing to hold free elections and end Maduro's dictatorship.

Guaido said opposition sympathizers should take to the streets on Wednesday to pass out copies of a pamphlet proposing amnesty that would give some legal protection to members of the military in hopes they will turn against Maduro.

Bolton later tweeted the the USA urges all nations to "support the democratic aspirations of the Venezuelan people as they try to free themselves from former president Maduro's illegitimate mafia state".

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement Sunday the department accepted the selection of Carlos Alfredo Vecchio as Venezuela's Chargé d'Affaires to the United States.

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The deepening crisis comes as Pope Francis called for a "just and peaceful solution" to Venezuela's political crisis as he wrapped up a visit to Panama for a World Youth Day rally.

He contends that Maduro's re-election to a second six-year term was fraudulent.

Maduro has received support from Russia, Syria, Turkey and China as well as longtime allies Cuba and Bolivia.

Although he professed himself "open to dialogue", he acknowledged it was unlikely. Everybody can see the security guards who protect Maduro.

Republican Senator Marco Rubio of Florida publicly welcomed the decision, and praised the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump for taking action.

In an interview with Turkish private broadcaster CNN Turk, Maduro stressed that his country has no political and diplomatic relations with the USA and described Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's remarks at the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) as "the words of a falling country". Since the government of Mr Maduro's late mentor Hugo Chavez, the Opec (Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries) nation has invested heavily in Russian weaponry, including Sukhoi fighter jets and heavy armour.

It follows similar declarations by the US, Britain, Germany and France.

Pompeo named American diplomat Elliott Abrams as the Trump administration's new special envoy to Venezuela.

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