Venezuela in crisis: All the latest updates

Venezuela has plunged into a major political crisis amid a growing row over President Nicolas Maduro’s future as the country’s leader. 

Maduro started a second term on January 10, following a widely boycotted election last year that many foreign governments refused to recognise.

On January 23, Juan Guaido, leader of the opposition-controlled National Assembly, declared himself interim president.

Shortly after Guaido took an oath swearing himself in, US President Donald Trump publicly recognised him as the country’s leader. 

Maduro accused Guaido of staging a coup and ordered his arrest.

Here are all the latest updates as of Thursday March 14, seven days after the worst blackout in decades paralysed most of the country.

US revoked more than 340 visas from Venezuelans since Monday

The United States has revoked hundreds of visas from Venezuelans since Monday, nearly a third of which belonged to former diplomats from Venezuela and their families, and is urging US citizens in Venezuela to flee the country days after the US withdrew its diplomats from Venezuela, the State Department said on Thursday.

“Since this Monday … we have revoked 340 visas, 107 of which include visas of Maduro’s former diplomats and their families,” State Department spokesman Robert Palladino told reporters.

The US has been stepping up actions against President Nicolas Maduro’s government as it tries to pressure Maduro to step down.

US considering sanctions to restrict Visa, Mastercard in Venezuela: Official

The United States is considering imposing financial sanctions that could prohibit Visa, Mastercard and other financial institutions from processing transactions in Venezuela, a senior Trump administration said on Thursday.

The move, which has not been finalised, would be a significant ratcheting up of pressure on the government of President Nicolas Maduro and his supporters.

“The purpose of these sanctions is to continue to deprive the illegitimate Maduro regime of access to funds and deny their ability to continue stealing from the Venezuelan people,” the official said.

Pompeo: All US diplomats have left Venezuela

The United States has withdrawn all remaining diplomatic personnel from its embassy in Caracas as the crisis in Venezuela deepens.

“Today, all US diplomats remaining in Venezuela departed the country. I know it is a difficult moment for them,” US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement on Thursday.

He said the US remains committed to supporting opposition leader Juan Guaido, who wants to remove Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and hold elections.

The embassy closure is set to worsen already tattered relations with US President Donald Trump, who has not ruled out military intervention to overthrow Maduro as Washington monitors rapidly unfolding events in the oil-rich but crippled South American nation.

House bills meant to step pressure on Venezuela’s Maduro

The House Foreign Affairs Committee has approved bills intended to step up US pressure against Maduro’s government.

The first bill would add new restrictions on the export of tear gas, riot gear and other ítems that can be used to control crime.

The second measure urges the Trump administration to provide up to $150m in humanitarian aid. Additionally, the State Department and intelligence agencies will be required to provide an assessment of a threat of Russian influence in Venezuela.

US diplomats in Venezuela prepare to head home

The last US diplomats in Venezuela are at the country’s main airport, preparing to head home amid deteriorating ties between Washington and President Maduro, a US official said.

Earlier on Thursday, a convoy was seen leaving the US Embassy in Caracas.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tweeted this week that the diplomats were being withdrawn because they had become a “constraint” on US policy.

The Venezuelan government disputed Pompeo’s account, saying it had instructed the US diplomats to leave.

Diplomats walk out of UN conference

Diplomats walked out of a UN convention on drugs addressed by Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza, saying his government was illegitimate and did not represent the country.

Dozens of officials from Latin America, as well as the US, Canada and some European countries, including France, left the room in protest as Arreaza took the podium for the meeting of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) in Vienna.

Multiple diplomats, including from Latin America and Europe, staged a walk-out last month during an Arreaza address to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, when he called for direct talks between Maduro and US President Donald Trump about the country’s crisis.

Wednesday March 13

Food supplier reports looting

Venezuela’s largest private food supplier says massive looting and vandalism occurred at four facilities in the city of Maracaibo during nationwide power outages, complicating efforts to distribute food and drinks to people in the area.

Empresas Polar says that the distribution centre and a production plant for Pepsi-Cola Venezuela were hit during unrest after blackouts started a week ago. So were a pasta plant and a beer distributor.

It reports the loss of large quantities of food, water and other drinks, vehicles, computers, office furniture and other items.

China offers help to restore power 

China has offered to help Venezuela as it faces a crippling multi-day power blackout that President Nicolas Maduro blames on the United States.

“China hopes that Venezuela can quickly find the cause of this accident and restore normal power and social order,” foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang says at a regular briefing.

“China is willing to offer assistance and technical support to Venezuela to restore the power system,” Lu says.

Tuesday, March 12

Journalist Luis Carlos Diaz released 

Luis Carlos Diaz has been released after being detained for 24 hours.

His release has been confirmed by the National Press Workers Union (SNTP).

Diaz was charged with instigating crime and barred from leaving the country without authorisation SNTP says, he must appear before a court every eight days, the group adds. 

Guaido: People took to the streets in peace 

“[People in] #Caracas took to the streets in peace, convinced of what we have achieved and what we are about to achieve,” Guaido writes.

“In Bello Monte, El Valle, Santa Monica and Montalban, the people shouted with vigor against oppression, darkness and usurpation.”

Mogherini: Solution cannot be imposed from the outside

European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini says no military action from inside or outside Venezuela would be acceptable to resolve the “dramatically” deteriorating situation in the country.

She tells the UN Security Council in New York that “a solution cannot be, and should never be, imposed from the outside.”

But she says that “an international initiative can help build a peaceful and democratic way out of the crisis.”

Mogherini also says the EU is also working with UN agencies “to ensure that humanitarian aid reaches those in need inside and outside of the country following the key principles of humanitarian law, and avoiding any politicisation of the aid delivery.”

Colombia: Maduro relatives seek outage relief

Colombian authorities say ten people close to Maduro tried to enter the country Monday seeking relief from the power outage.

According to officials, the leader’s cousin, Argimiro Maduro, along with his spouse, children and extended relatives complained the heat was unbearable and said they wanted to spend five days in Riohacha until service is restored.

Colombia Migration Director Christian Kruger says the relatives were on the no-entry list.
He adds that Colombia will not allow Maduro’s relatives to vacation while “avoiding the reality of a people in agony.”

US plans additional sanctions 

The US is prepared to impose “very significant” additional sanctions against financial institutions over the situation in Venezuela in the coming days, US special envoy Elliott Abrams says.

Abrams did not elaborate on the fresh measures. 

Abrams also told reporters at the State Department that Washington is in talks with other countries about security arrangements for the US embassy in Venezuela after deciding to withdraw its remaining diplomats.

Nicolas Maduro: I will never fail you

“I will always be with the people, facing every imperial aggression and fighting for our right to be a free and sovereign Republic,” Maduro writes on Twitter.

“Be assured that, from this complex and difficult battle, sooner rather than later, we will be victorious. I will never fail you!”

Protest for the release of Luis Carlos Diaz 

A protest is underway to demand the release of Venezuelan journalist Luis Carlos Diaz.

“Workers of the Press and civil society protest before the Public Ministry to demand the release and respect of the rights of journalist and activist Luis Carlos Diaz,” the Committee to Protect Journalists writes on Twitter.

Bachelet: Concern about the reported detention of journalist

“We are deeply concerned about the reported detention of prominent journalist Luis Carlos Diaz by Venezuelan intelligence services, and about his well-being,” Bachelet writes on Twitter.

“The UN HumanRights technical mission in Caracas has asked the Government for urgent access to Diaz.”

State prosecutor says will investigate Guaido for ‘sabotage’

Venezuela’s state prosecutor says he will investigate opposition leader Juan Guaido for “sabotage” as a nationwide power blackout entered its fifth day.

Public prosecutor Tarek William Saab tells reporters in Caracas an investigation was being opened “against the citizen Juan Guaido for his alleged involvement in the sabotage of the Venezuelan electricity system.”

Government: Electricity restored ‘almost in its entirety’

The Venezuelan Minister of Communication, Jorge Rodriguez says that “electric service in the country is almost restored.”

“At this time almost all of the electricity supply has been restored throughout the national territory,” Rodriguez says, according to local reports.  

Venezuela’s Communications Minister Jorge Rodriguez talks to the media [Ivan Alvarado/Reuters]

FM: US diplomats must leave within three days 

Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza says US diplomats on Venezuelan soil must leave within three days, after talks broke down over maintaining diplomatic “interest sections” in the two countries.

“The presence on Venezuelan soil of these officials represents a risk for the peace, unity and stability of the country,” the government says in a statement.

The US State Department had announced on Monday it will withdraw its staff from Venezuela this week, saying their presence had become “a constraint on US policy.”

CPJ: Authorities should release Luis Carlos Diaz 

Venezuelan authorities should immediately release journalist Luis Carlos Diaz, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) says.

 “Without electricity, much of the Venezuelan public is already deprived of access to information from TV, radio, and the internet in the midst of an emergency. Harassing and jailing journalists will only exacerbate the crisis,” CPJ Central and South America Programme Coordinator Natalie Southwick declares.

Russia’s Rosneft says US statements on its operation groundless 

Russia’s top oil producer Rosneft says that US statements that it has violated US sanctions in its Venezuela activities were “groundless accusations”.

Pompeo said this week Rosneft was defying US sanctions by buying oil from Venezuelan state oil firm PDVSA.

Rosneft says it is not involved in politics and was conducting “purely commercial operations” in line with international law. It says any contracts were secured before the latest US sanctions were imposed in January and it might seek legal action to defend itself if necessary.

Monday, March 11

Intelligence agents detain journalist 

Venezuelans authorities have detained radio journalist Luis Carlos Diaz.

Family members lost contact with Diaz at around 5:30pm local time, when he was detained by intelligence service agents, according to news reports.

During a television show, Diosdado Cabello shows a video clip of Diaz and accuses him of “sabotage” saying that he has played a role in the electricity outage.

Diaz is reportedly now being held in El Helicoide political prison.

US announces withdrawal of diplomatic personnel

The US is to withdraw all remaining diplomatic personnel from Venezuela this week, the US State Department has announced.

“Like the January 24 decision to withdraw all dependents and reduce embassy staff to a minimum, this decision reflects the deteriorating situation in Venezuela as well as the conclusion that the presence of U.S. diplomatic staff at the embassy has become a constraint on US policy,” the State Department says.

It did not say on what day the personnel would be withdrawn from the embassy in Caracas.

Guaido calls for more protests

Juan Guaido has called for marches on Tuesday, at 3:00pm local time, to protest the electrical blackout that hit Venezuela.

US sanctions Russian bank for link to PDVSA

The US has sanctioned a Russian bank over its alleged dealings with Venezuela’s state-owned oil company PDVSA.

Moscow-based Evrofinance Mosnarbank, which is jointly owned by Russian and Venezuelan state-owned companies, is now in a list of sanctioned individuals and entities due to its alleged attempts to circumvent US restrictions placed on PDVSA by offering the company financial, material and technological support.

“This action demonstrates that the United States will take action against foreign financial institutions that sustain the illegitimate Maduro regime and contribute to the economic collapse and humanitarian crisis plaguing the people of Venezuela,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin says in a statement.

Venezuelans scramble for food and water 

Much of Venezuela, including parts of the capital Caracas, remains without power for a fifth day, crimping vital oil exports and leaving people struggling to obtain water and food.

Maduro again ordered the suspension of classes and the working day, as he had on Friday.

The lack of electricity has aggravated a crisis in Venezuelan hospitals, also lacking investment and maintenance in addition to the shortage of medicines.

Dr Julio Castro, of the non-governmental group Doctors for Health, said in a Twitter message on Sunday night that 21 people have died in public hospitals since the start of the blackout.

People collect water released through a sewage drain that feeds into the Guaire River in Caracas [Carlos Garcia Rawlins/Reuters]

Jose oil port unable to resume exports – Reuters

Venezuela’s state-run PDVSA oil firm has been unable to resume exports at Jose port, the nation’s primary crude-export terminal, following last week’s widespread power outage, according to people familiar with the matter.

PDVSA has launched a contingency plan to try and restore power, according to one of the people.

The country’s crude upgraders, which convert up to 700,000 barrels per day of Orinoco Belt heavy oil into exportable grades, also are operating at minimum levels due to the lack of power, the people said. 

Sunday, March 10

NYT’s report: Video contradicts claim that Maduro burned aid convoy

On February 24, the US administration accused Nicolas Maduro’s government of torching a convoy of humanitarian aid amid a civil plight. 

Senator Marco Rubio accused Maduro of “committing a crime,” while White House National Security Adviser John Bolton said the Venezuelan president had sent “masked thugs” to set the cargo alight. 

But the New York Times (NTY) has published footage that suggests that a Molotov cocktail thrown by an anti-government protester was the trigger for the blaze.

“At one point, a homemade bomb made from a bottle is hurled toward the police, who were blocking a bridge connecting Colombia and Venezuela to prevent the aid trucks from getting through,” the report reads.

“But the rag used to light the Molotov cocktail separates from the bottle, flying toward the aid truck instead. Half a minute later, that truck is in flames,” it adds. 

The media outlet is not the first one to debunk the claim that Maduro was behind the fire.

On February 24, several independent journalists pointed out that a different situation took place: 

Government suspends school, and business activities on Monday

Venezuela is suspending school and business activities on Monday amid a continuing blackout, Information Minister Jorge Rodriguez says.

The second such cancellation since power went out last week.

Guaido wants national emergency declared

Guaido says a state of emergency should declared in the country over the ongoing power outages.

In parts of Venezuela there has been no electricity since Thursday evening. The restoration of the electricity supply is progressing slowly and keeps suffering setbacks.

Guaido says the National Assembly, which is controlled by the opposition, should declare a national emergency in a special meeting.

“We can not turn our faces to the tragedy that our country is experiencing.” Guaido writes. 

“I have called for an extraordinary session in the National Assembly tomorrow, where I will request, in my capacity as president, to decree a state of national emergency, based on article 338 of our constitution.”

Maduro seems set on staying put: US envoy 

There are no signs Maduro is open to negotiations to end the political impasse with Juan Guaido, Washington’s envoy for Venezuela says.

Abrams, however, plays down any possibility that the Venezuelan president was ready to talk about his exit. “From everything we have seen, Maduro’s tactic is to stay put,” Abrams says.

Abrams has met with Russian representatives to the US about Moscow’s support for Maduro. 

“The Russians are not happy with Maduro for all the obvious reasons,” Abrams says. “In a couple of conversations, I have been told they have given advice to Maduro and he doesn’t take it.”

“They continue to support him and there is no indication that I have seen that they are telling him it’s time to bring this to an end,” he says, adding: “There could come a point where the Russians reach a conclusion that the regime is really unsalvageable.”

US special envoy for Venezuela Elliott Abrams believes Maduro is not open to negotiations [Alex Brandon/AP]

Fourth day of blackout 

Venezuelans wake up to the fourth day of a nationwide blackout, leaving residents concerned about the impacts of the lack of electricity on the country’s health, communications and transport systems.

The blackout, which began Thursday afternoon, keeps increasing frustration among Venezuelans already suffering widespread food and medicine shortages. 

Food is rotting in refrigerators, people walk for miles to work with the Caracas subway down, and relatives abroad anxiously wait for updates from family members with telephone and internet signals intermittent.

Hospitals are also struggling, Julio Castro, who leads an NGO called Doctors for Health, says that at least 13 people have died amid the blackout. His statement could not be independently verified.

“What can you do without electricity?” says Leonel Gutierrez, a 47-year-old systems technician, as he carried his six-month-old daughter on his way to buy groceries. “The food we have has spoiled.”

A child is seen inside a closed shop during the second day of a blackout in Caracas [Carlos Jasso/Reuters]

Saturday, March 9

Marco Rubio: A horror movie 

US Senator Marco Rubio who has been accused by the government of being responsible of the blackout suffered in Venezuela, writes on Twitter that what is happening in the country is like “a horror movie. “

Maduro blames blackouts on US weapons

Maduro says that his country’s recent complete electrical failure was caused by “an international cyber attack.”

“I will tell this for the first time,” Maduro tells a crowd in Caracas.

“We are in the process of investigation, and correcting it all because there are many infiltrators attacking from within the electrical company.”

“The right wing, together with the empire, has stabbed the electricity system, and we are trying to cure it soon.” 

The president also says Guaido is a puppet of Washington and dismisses his claim to the presidency as an effort by the administration of Trump to control Venezuela’s oil wealth.

Guaido: We need to be united 

Juan Guaido calls on citizens to keep united and protesting. 

“We will continue to mobilise,” local media reports. 

“We have to seize [more] spaces, as we did today in the Libertador municipality (…) We have to [do it] in a peaceful way, we must unite and come together,” he says.

“I come to ask for your trust. We can not be victims of misinformation,” he adds.

Guaido warns that hard days will come. “The [government] will try to divide us.”

“They want to demobilise us, it’s up to us. Let’s not fall, the game is to be united, together.”

Juan Guaido attends a rally against Nicolas Maduro’s government in Caracas [Ivan Alvarado/Reuters]

Nicolas Maduro: Yankee Go Home!

As government supporters take out to the streets in support of Nicolas Maduro, he writes on Twitter it’s time for the US to go home.

“Today when the US empire, in its desperation to get hold of our natural resources, intensifies its brutal aggressions against the Homeland, we firmly stand up to defend our land and scream with force: Yankee Go Home! We are Anti-imperialists!,” he writes on Twitter. 

‘Protesters take over the streets’ 

Opposition protesters have accessed a part of western Caracas after “pushing hard.”

“Very early in the morning there were lots of tensions because the police wouldn’t allow people here,” Al Jazeera’s Teresa Bo reports from western Caracas. 

“After pushing hard protesters took over the streets.

“The government has been really careful in not repressing people, especially after the US has threatened with serious actions if they touch people like Juan Guaido or protesters,” Bo says. 

Police block opposition protesters

Riot police are blocking protesters in western Caracas as hundreds of people are taking to the streets. 

“We want to march! Yes we can!” the opposition protesters are heard shouting, as riot police prevent them from accessing the area where their demonstration is due to take place.

Government supporters are in the streets

The ruling Socialist Party has called for a march near the presidential palace in central-west Caracas to protest against what it calls US imperialism, which has levied crippling oil sanctions on Maduro’s government in efforts to cut off its sources of funding.

“Today we are – more than ever before – anti-imperialists,” Maduro writes on Twitter.

“We will never give up.”

 Government supporters are seen in the streets [AFP]

Guaido: People will surprise [the government]

For his part, Guaido also writes on Twitter:  “They think they can scare us, but the people and the street will surprise them.

“They intend to wear us down, but they can’t contain a nation that is determined to stop the usurpation.

“Today we will show them in the streets.”

‘Extremely tense situation’

Al Jazeera’s Teresa Bo, reporting from Caraca, says opposition supporters have started gathering in western Caracas to protest against Maduro’s politicies.

“It’s an extremely tense situation, because the Bolivarian National Guard and the police are just about half away from the block [away] … and people are screaming on their faces, telling them to join in, in their fight against Maduro,” she says.

Opposition supporters take part in anti-Maduro rally [Carlos Garcia Rawlins/Reuters]

Friday, March 8

Maduro, Guaido rallies set for Saturday

Thousands of Venezuelans are expected to take to the streets on Saturday as Guaido cranks up the pressure on Maduro. 

Both men, who are locked in a bitter power struggle for the right to lead the oil-rich South American nation, have asked their supporters to fill the streets of Caracas and other cities.

“The US Empire, once again, underestimates the conscience and determination of the Venezuelan people,” Maduro writes on Twitter.

“I assure you, that every attempt at imperial aggression will be met with a strong response.”

Guaido also makes a call on Twitter: 

“Tomorrow, I call on the Venezuelan people to make a huge statement in the streets against the usurper, corrupt and incapable regime that has plunged our country into darkness.” 

“We return to the streets and we won’t leave until we reach the goal,” writes the 35-year-old National Assembly leader.

Power restored to parts of Venezuela

A blackout is reported to have hit 22 of 23 states, striking during the peak of evening rush hour on Thursday. 

By early Friday afternoon, residents and state broadcaster VTV report that power is starting to return to parts of Caracas. Neither Socialist Party officials nor state power company Corpoelec have provided further updates on the situation.

“Today the [government says] the blackout, of more than 15 hours, is the product of an external sabotage,” Guaido says on Twitter. 

“Sabotage is stealing money from Venezuelans. Sabotage is burning food and medicine. Sabotage is stealing elections.”

Regional lender to vote on Venezuela’s opposition representative

Member countries of the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB) will vote the next week on accepting a representative from Fuaido to the board of the regional lender, bank officials say.

The 48-member board of governors will have until Friday, March 15, to vote on the issue. It is not clear what would happen to Maduro’s representative on the board.

Guaido, who has the support of 57 countries, has named Harvard University economist Ricardo Hausmann as the country’s representative to the IADB.

Ex-Venezuelan vice president accused of aiding drug dealers 

Former Venezuelan Vice President Tareck El Aissami has been criminally charged in New York federal court, accused of using his office to aid international drug traffickers.

El Aissami and a Venezuelan businessman, Samark Jose Lopez Bello, were charged on Friday with violating the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act and US Treasury Department sanctions. 

US Attorney Geoffrey Berman said El Aissami, now Venezuela’s minister of industry and national production, hired US companies to provide private jets in violation of sanctions.

Angel Melendez, who heads New York’s US immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations, said El Aissami and Lopez Bello are now wanted in New York.

US gives time for Venezuela sanctions compliance

The Trump administration is granting US companies more time to comply with sanctions barring transactions with Venezuela’s state-run oil company. 

The Treasury Department said firms have until May 10 to wind down and close their business with oil company PDVSA.

PDVSA was hit with US sanctions on January 28 in a step that caught some American companies by surprise. The sanctions had the effect of stranding several oil tankers at and near Venezuelan ports because their cargoes were unable to be legally paid for.

Treasury said on Friday the extension will allow certain financial contracts agreed upon before January 28 to be completed.

US will not use force to deliver aid: Trump’s Venezuela envoy

The United States will not use force to deliver humanitarian aid to Venezuela, US President Donald Trump’s special representative for Venezuela said on Friday, after Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s forces blocked aid convoys at the border last month.

“The United States government has said that we will not use force to deliver that aid, and the Colombian government has said the same thing, so obviously we agree with that view and would not be involved in any actions that would be contrary to that view,” the envoy, Elliott Abrams, told reporters.

Venezuela shuts schools, suspends working day as blackout continues

Venezuela’s government shut schools and suspended working hours on Friday after the capital Caracas and other major cities awoke without electricity due to a problem that struck the South American country’s main hydroelectric plant on Thursday.

President Nicolas Maduro “has suspended classes and the working day today in order to facilitate the efforts for the recovery of electric service in the country,” wrote Vice President Delcy Rodríguez on her Twitter account.

UN opens first reception centre for Venezuelans in Colombia

The UN refugee agency said it is opening its first reception centre in Colombia to support people leaving neighbouring Venezuela.

UNHCR spokesman Andrej Mahecic said the centre set up along with Colombian authorities in the border city of Maicao will open on Friday and can initially take in up to 350 people, with “possibility to grow” in the future.

The Geneva-based agency said on Friday that hundreds of people including children, the elderly and those with medical conditions are “forced to live on the streets” because of a lack of shelter in Maicao.

UNHCR said 2.7 million Venezuelans have left their crisis-ridden country since 2015, and Colombia is the country most-affected by the outflow, with more than 1.1 million.

China warns of repeating history’s mistakes with Venezuela

The Chinese government’s top diplomat issued a stern warning on Friday against interfering in Venezuela and imposing sanctions, saying history offered a clear lesson about not “following the same old disastrous road”.

China has repeatedly called for outsiders not to interfere in Venezuela’s internal affairs and has stuck by embattled President Nicolas Maduro.

State Councillor Wang Yi, responding to a question on whether China still recognised Maduro or had contacts with the opposition, said the sovereignty and independence of Latin American countries should be respected.

Thursday, March 7

Venezuela hit by major blackout, government blames act of ‘sabotage’

A major power outage hit crisis-stricken Venezuela on Thursday, according to Reuters witnesses, a problem the government of President Nicolas Maduro quickly blamed on “sabotage” at a hydroelectric dam that provides much of the country’s power.

Electricity outages are frequent in Venezuela, where the economy is collapsing under hyperinflation, with chronic shortages of food and medicine and a mass emigration of more than three million citizens.

Critics say corruption and under investment have left the country’s power grid unable to function, while Maduro said the problems are intentionally created by political adversaries.

Local media and Twitter users reported that the outage was affecting the capital of Caracas as well as 15 of the country’s 23 states. A reporter for state television described it as a “national blackout.”

Trump’s Venezuela envoy vows sanctions on banks supporting Maduro

US President Donald Trump’s special representative for Venezuela pledged on Thursday that Washington would “expand the net” of sanctions on the South American nation, including more on banks supporting President Nicolas Maduro’s government.

“There will be more sanctions on financial institutions that are carrying out the orders of the Maduro regime,” Elliott Abrams told a US Senate subcommittee hearing.

Venezuela opposition leader says government ‘threatening’ Germany

Venezuela’s opposition leader Juan Guaido said in an interview the expulsion of the German ambassador by Caracas was a threat against Germany, Der Spiegel magazine reported.

“This action represents a threat against Germany,” Guaido was quoted as saying.

German ambassador Daniel Kriener was expelled two days after he and diplomats from other embassies welcomed home Guaido at Caracas’ airport.

The opposition leader also urged European countries to increase sanctions against the government of Nicolas Maduro. 

EU disappointed with Venezuela’s expulsion of German envoy

The European Union said it was disappointed that Venezuela’s government has ordered the German ambassador to leave the country after he expressed support for opposition leader Juan Guaido.

European Commission spokeswoman Maja Kocijancic said on Thursday that the EU wants to continue its dialogue with all political forces in the country.

“Despite the tense and complex political context, the EU has been keen to maintain lines of communication with all key parties including the government,” Kocijancic said. “In that respect, the EU hopes that this decision can be reconsidered.”

German minister: Envoys helped prevent Guaido arrest

Germany’s foreign minister says the presence of foreign diplomats at the Caracas airport on Monday helped prevent the arrest of Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido.

Heiko Maas said on Thursday he expressly asked Germany’s ambassador to Venezuela, Daniel Kriener, to join other envoys at the airport.

He told reporters in Berlin on that “there was information that [Guaido] was meant to be arrested there, and I think the presence of various ambassadors contributed to helping prevent this arrest.”

On Wednesday, the government of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro announced it was giving Kriener 48 hours to leave the country, a move seen as a response to Germany’s support for Guaido.

Wednesday, March 6

Venezuela releases US journalist after day in custody 

A US journalist detained by Venezuelan security services was released after more than 12 hours in custody.

Venezuelan freed American reporter Cody Weddle following his arrest in the morning.

Miami television station WPLG Local 10, one of the outlets for which Weddle worked, said he was at the main Caracas-area airport waiting for a US-bound flight. 

Weddle, who worked in Venezuela for several years as a correspondent for a variety of US media, “has been released after being detained by Venezuelan authorities”, the network announced on Twitter. 

The release was also announced by Senator Marco Rubio, a strident critic of  Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.

“We know that members of the military intelligence directorate appeared at his home this morning to ask him questions about his coverage on the border,” said Carlos Correa from the NGO Espacio Publico.

US demands release of American journalist

The US demands the “immediate release” of an American journalist who is reported to have been detained in Caracas.

Cody Weddle has worked in Venezuela for several years as a correspondent for a variety of US media, including ABC News and the Miami Herald.

Kimberly Breier, the US assistant secretary of state for hemispheric affairs, says that the State Department is “aware of and deeply concerned” by the reports that an American journalist was detained.

PDVSA declares maritime emergency: Reuters

Venezuela’s state-run oil company PDVSA declared a maritime emergency on Tuesday after German shipping firm Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement (BSM) disclosed plans to return ten tankers over unpaid fees, according to a document from the state-run firm, Reuters reports. 

BSM, operator of a portion of PDVSA’s tanker fleet, last month confirmed its crews would abandon the tankers Rio Arauca and Parnaso, which were held in Portugal over unpaid fees to a shipyard and port authority.

A third vessel also operated by BSM, the Icaro, separately was seised in Curacao by a group of shipping firms claiming unpaid bills from PDVSA.

US to revoke visas of 77 others tied to Maduro 

The US is set to revoke the visas of 77 people associated with Maduro, US Vice President Mike Pence says, adding to a list of 49 others whose visas were revoked on Friday.

“Today the State Department is announcing that the United States will revoke 77 visas, including many officials of the Maduro regime and their families,” Pence says in a speech.

The US is set to revoke the visas of 77 people associated with Maduro  [File:Luisa Gonzalez/Reuters]

Berlin says expulsion ‘aggravates situation’

Berlin says Venezuela’s expulsion of the German ambassador over his backing of Juan Guaido only aggravated the situation.

“It’s an incomprehensible decision which aggravates the situation,” Germany’s Foreign Minister Heiko Maas says in a statement.

“Our support for Guaido remains unbroken, ambassador Kriener is doing an excellent job,” he adds. 

Venezuela expels German ambassador

The government has given the German ambassador 48 hours to leave the country after he expressed support for Guaido.

Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza tweets a statement saying ambassador Daniel Kriener interfered in Venezuela’s internal affairs and allied himself with “extremist sectors” of the opposition.

Venezuela considers it unacceptable that a foreign diplomat would take on “a public role more appropriate to that of a political leader,” the statement reads.

US puts financial institutions ‘on notice’ on Venezuela transactions

White House national security adviser John Bolton warns foreign banks and other financial institutions that they will face US sanctions for “illegitimate” transactions that benefit Maduro and his network.

“The United States is putting foreign financial institutions on notice that they will face sanctions for being involved in facilitating illegitimate transactions that benefit Nicolas Maduro and his corrupt network,” Bolton says in a statement released by the White House.

National Assembly to discuss the economic crisis

Venezuela’s National Assembly will discuss today the economic crisis hitting the country and the clashes that took place in an indigenous community in Kumarakapay in southern Venezuela, two weeks ago, when humanitarian aid was expected to enter the country.  

Residents say that an indigenous couple were killed and at least 15 people were injured. 

Guaido is also expected to present a report of his tour in South America. 

Michelle Bachelet: Sanctions have worsened the crisis 

Sanctions have “exacerbated” the crisis in Venezuela, the UN human rights chief says, after the United States warned it may expand the measures it has imposed targeting  Nicolas Maduro ‘s government. 

“Venezuela clearly illustrates the way violations of civil and political rights – including failure to uphold fundamental freedoms, and the independence of key institutions – can accentuate a decline of economic and social rights,” rights chief Michelle Bachelet says. 

“This situation has been exacerbated by sanctions, and the resulting current political, economic, social and institutional crisis is alarming … I will be further discussing this human rights situation, among other countries, on March 20,” she adds.

Michelle Bachelet attends a session of the Human Rights Council at the UN in Geneva [Denis Balibouse/Reuters]

Tuesday, March 5

Maduro says he will defeat ‘minority of opportunists and cowards’

Nicolas Maduro said he would defeat a “crazed minority” determined to destabilise the country in his first public comment since Guaido returned to the country.

Maduro called on supporters to attend “anti-imperialist” demonstrations on March 9, coinciding with an opposition march announced by Guaido.

He expressed defiance towards opposition forces, belittling a “minority of opportunists and cowards” and vowing to “stop them in their tracks”.

“The crazed minority continues in their bitterness. We are going to defeat them, be absolutely sure,” said Maduro. 

“We are on the right side of history,” he added, using the same words previously used by Guaido referring to the opposition.

The president says Venezuela is a victim of a US-led economic war and accuses Guaido of leading a coup orchestrated by the American government. He has vowed the opposition leader will “face justice”.

Maduro’s vice president, Delcy Rodriguez, told Russian state media Guaido is “trying to seize power” upon the “direct order” of Washington.

US eyes new sanctions against Venezuela

The US is considering imposing new sanctions on Venezuela to pressure Maduro’s government to give up power, US National Security Adviser John Bolton said.

“We’re looking at new sanctions, new measures to tighten our grip on Maduro’s financial wherewithal, to deny his regime the money that they need to stay in power,” Bolton told Fox Business Network.

Maduro has described opposition to his rule as an attempted coup by the US and its allies.

US envoy: hard to see role for Maduro in Venezuela’s future

Washington’s top envoy for Venezuela, Elliott Abrams, said it was hard to see a role for Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro in the building of a “democratic Venezuela”.

“If he wanted to build a democratic Venezuela, he had the opportunity to do so, but he did not,” Abrams told reporters. “It is extremely difficult to see how he could play a positive role in a democratic election,” he said, adding that it was ultimately up to Venezuelans to decide Maduro’s future role.

Abrams also said that imposing US secondary sanctions against non-US citizens or entities tied to the Maduro government was “clearly a possibility”, although he said a decision had not been made on taking such a step.

Guaido attends a meeting with public employees 

Guaido speaks during a meeting with workers and unions representatives in Caracas.

Al Jazeera’s Manuel Rapalo reporting from Cucuta says Guaido has wasted no time since returning from a tour of several South American countries.

“Guaido is meeting with public sector employees,” Rapalo says. 

“They are a very important group, he sees them as traditionally loyal to President Nicolas Maduro, so the goal here is to win over their support.”

“[One of the] main points that he has been making to these public sector employees … is securing legislation that can guarantee that their jobs will still exist once there is a transitional government in place.”

“He also wants a census, and get an idea of exactly how many public sector employees there are in Venezuela … and he wants to call for a national strike.. to continue this momentum … and continue the pressure against the government of Nicolas Maduro. “

Guaido meets workers and unions representatives at the Colegio de Ingenieros [Carlos Jasso/Reuters]

Nicolas Maduro: Hugo Chavez, you’ll live forever 

Maduro remembers the late President Hugo Chavez.

“Comandante Chavez, six years have passed [since your departure] and it still hurts … thanks to your teachings and your example, today we continue in a permanent struggle against the enemies who tried to silence your voice so many times. You will live forever, in every victory!” Maduro writes on Twitter.

Guaido to meet state workers

Juan Guaido will meet with workers, public employees and unions representatives at the Colegio de Ingenieros (Engineers Association).

“We will meet with our public employees,” Guaido writes on Twitter. 
 
“We are going to take the first steps to recover our bureaucracy and continue building the capacities inside and outside our country that [will] allow us to stop the usurpation, the transitional government and free elections.”

Cuba remembers Hugo Chavez

Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel remembers Hugo Chavez, who died six years ago.

“The children of the Bolivarian Revolution today pay tribute to him, fighting bravely”, he writes on his Twitter account.

Monday, March 5

UN calls for dialogue 

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is stressing that the only way the political conflict in Venezuela can be resolved is through political dialogue.

UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric notes reports that Juan Guaido returned without incident to Caracas on Monday. 

Dujarric says UN officials “obviously remain very concerned about the situation in Venezuela.”

And he says it’s important that “all political actors in Venezuela and abroad make all efforts to lower tensions.”

Guaido speaks to supporters in Caracas

Juan Guaido is speaking to supporters at a Caracas demonstration after he returned to the country despite warnings he might face arrest.

Guaido is greeted with cheers and applause at the rally of several thousand people in the Las Mercedes neighbourhood in the Venezuelan capital. He tells the demonstrators: “We’re much stronger than ever.”

“Guaido arrives to a hero’s welcome,” Vanessa Neuman a Latin American analyst tells Al Jazeera.

“Guaido [has] done what didn’t seem possible just a few months ago, to unify the Venezuelan opposition, the political parties and the people, to inspire hope … it also really puts the regime on the back foot, they had said they would arrest him, but  … if they arrest him now there will be a massive uprising … and by not arresting him, Maduro looks weaker than ever,” she explains.  

Guaido calls for a march on Saturday to increase pressure on Nicolas Maduro

Juan Guaido reacts during a rally held by his supporters against Nicolas Maduro’s government [Manaure Quintero/Reuters]

Guaido: We’ve entered Venezuela

The opposition leader announces he is already in the country.

We entered Venezuela, we are free citizens, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Already feeling the sun in La Guaira,” he writes on Twitter.

Pence: Guaido must be allowed to reenter Venezuela safely 

Vice President Mike Pence says the safe return of Guaido is a high priority for the US.

“Any threats, violence, or intimidation against him will not be tolerated.” 

Venezuela’s Guaido arrives at Caracas airport: reports 

Guaido has returned to Venezuela after a tour of South American nations, according to local television footage.

“Back in our beloved country! Venezuela, we just passed through immigration and we will now head to where our people are,” he says on Twitter just after arriving.

Several European ambassadors who support his campaign for a change of leadership in Venezuela are at the airport waiting for him.

Guaido supporters gather in Caracas

Flag-waving Venezuelans turns out to await the return of Guaido, who is defying the threat of arrest as he embarks on a renewed push against Maduro.

In a video shared on social networks, Guaido warned that if Maduro’s government “tries to kidnap us … it will be one of the last mistakes it makes.”

“He’s going to enter the country under their noses,” says Maria Garrido, 62, who attends the rally from El Cafetal with a Venezuelan flag.

“That boy has proven to be smarter than the whole government,” she adds.

Antonio Rangel, an unemployed engineer who now sells bread and sweets to support his family, expresses hope for the country.

“The difference is that now we have hope. I’m not tired, I’m not defeated, the only thing I’m tired of is Maduro and his friends,” Rangel tells Al Jazeera. “They need to leave.”

Journalist Hector Antolinez tweets from Caracas: This is the Alfredo Sadel square, [people are here] in support of Juan Guaido. 

Reporting by Erika Fiorucci from Caracas

Guaido says he is on his way home 

Guaido says he is on his way home.

Guaido tweets an audio message and announces he is heading back to Venezuela, though details about his exact whereabouts remains a mystery. 

“Venezuelan brothers, the moment you hear this message, I will be on my way home, our home,” Guaido says.  

US threatens tighter financial restrictions on Cuba

The Trump administration threatens to put additional financial restrictions on Cuba’s military and intelligence services amid the political turmoil in Venezuela.

Maduro welcomes Carnival season

Nicolas Maduro welcomes the Carnival season. 

“I invite the Venezuelan families to enjoy the festivities and the natural beauty that our beloved Venezuela offers us,” he writes on Twitter.

US warns Venezuela ahead of Guaido’s arrival

The United States warns the Venezuelan government of Nicolas Maduro not to take action against  Juan Guaido, who plans to return home on Monday.

US National Security Adviser John Bolton tweets that threats or action against Guaido “will be met with a strong and significant response from the United States and the international community.”

Sunday, March 3

Guaido calls for mass demonstration 

Guaido calls for nationwide demonstrations on Monday to coincide with his planned return to Venezuela.

On Sunday he tweets that Venezuelans should monitor his official announcements and that he would provide details about meeting points for supporters. He says they should gather across the country at 11:00am (3:00 GMT).

Translation: Tomorrow morning, at 11 am [let’s go out to] the streets!

It is in the midst of uncertainty when faith becomes more powerful. # 4MVzlaALaCalle

Russia says it will prevent US military intervention

Russia will do all possible to prevent a US military intervention in Venezuela, the TASS news agency quotes the speaker of Russia’s upper house of parliament as saying on Sunday.

“We are very much concerned that the USA could carry out any provocations to shed blood, to find a cause and reasons for intervention in Venezuela,” Valentina Matvienko tells Venezuelan Vice President Delcy Rodriguez in Moscow.

Saturday, March 2

Guaido says he will return home after Ecuador visit 

Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido says he will return home after a visit to Ecuador and calls for new protests next week against President Nicolas Maduro, whose government has banned him from travelling abroad.

Guaido has spent the past few days touring between Latin American countries to muster support for his campaign to form a transition government and oust Maduro, whom he denounces as an illegitimate usurper.

“I announce my return to the country and I call for mobilisations in all the national territory on Monday and Tuesday,” Guaido wrote on Twitter. 

Read more

Friday, March 1

US revokes visas of 49 Maduro associates

The United States revoked the visas of 49 individuals aligned with Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, the State Department said on Friday.

The State Department said the restrictions applied to “individuals responsible for undermining Venezuela’s democracy” and that the policy would be applied to “numerous” Maduro-aligned officials and their families”.

The move came hours after the US sanctioned six Venezuelan security officials over blocking aid from getting into the country.

Guaido to visit Ecuador on Saturday

Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido will visit Ecuador on Saturday, Ecuadorian President Lenin Moreno said on Friday.

The meeting is part of Guaido’s tour of sympathetic regional allies that also includes meetings with heads of state in Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina. 

TRANSLATION: I have spoken with President Juan Guaido. I have invited him to Ecuador to receive the affection and support of a democracy-loving nation. 

Guaido set to meet Macri in Argentina

Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido will travel to Argentina on Friday to meet President Mauricio Macri, according to Guaido’s press team.

Argentina’s Foreign Ministry confirmed the meeting, saying that Guaido and Macri would hold a press conference on Friday.

Argentina is among the dozens of countries that support Guaido as interim president of Venezuela.

Guaido is currently in Paraguay as part of a whistle-stop tour intended to drum up support in the region and put pressure on Venezuela’s Nicolas Maduro to step down.

Guaido claims 600 military have left Maduro government

Guaido made the claims at a press conference with Ecuador’s president [Jorge Adorno/Reuters]

Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido has said that 600 members of Venezuela’s military have abandoned the government of Nicolas Maduro in recent days.

He made the announcement from the Paraguayan capital, Asuncion, where he was meeting the country’s President Mario Abdo Benitez.

Military support is seen as key to ensuring the stability of Maduro’s rule. It is unclear how many members of the armed forces have defected. 

US discussing Temporary Protected Status for Venezuelans: Abrams

The Trump administration is in the process of discussing proposals to grant Venezuelans Temporary Protected Status (TPS), US Special Envoy for Venezuela Elliott Abrams told reporters on Friday.

While no decision has been made, Abrams said the US will continue to take “appropriate actions” against the government of  President Nicolas Maduro, including restricting travel visas for dozens of Maduro’s associates.

He added that the US did not expect Russia or China to provide significant additional funds to Maduro’s government, but acknowledged that their political support was a “help” to Maduro. 

Abrams also voiced concerns over whether opposition leader Juan Guaido, who is currently in Paraguay, will be able to return safely to Venezuela.

US sanctions six Venezuelan security officials over blocking aid

The US Treasury Department issued fresh Venezuela-related sanctions on Friday against six individuals, according to a statement posted on its website.

The sanctions target individuals associated with the “obstruction of humanitarian aid deliveries into Venezuela”, on February 23.

The United States also targeted Venezuela’s government with new sanctions on Monday and called on allies to freeze the assets of state-owned PDVSA after deadly violence blocked humanitarian aid from reaching the country last weekend.

Venezuela’s Maduro moves an office of state oil company to Moscow: VP

Venezuelan Vice President Delcy Rodriguez said on Friday that President Nicolas Maduro had ordered a European office of state oil company PDVSA to move to Moscow.

Rodriguez made the announcement following talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov at the Russian capital.

Meanwhile, Lavrov said Russia will counteract any attempts to intervene in Venezuela’s domestic affairs.

Lavrov said a close cooperation with Venezuela was gaining “special importance” as the country faced “a frontal attack and a shameless intervention into its internal affairs.”

For all previous updates, click here. 

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