Some US diplomats leaving Venezuela amid political crisis

In a strongly-worded statement backing Moscow ally Maduro, the Russian foreign ministry warned that global support for opposition leader Juan Guaido, who declared himself interim president Wednesday, was a "direct path to lawlessness and bloodshed".

"We need freedom, we need this corrupt government to get out, we need to all unite, so that there is peace in Venezuela", said Claudia Olaizola, a 54-year-old salesperson near the march's centre in the eastern Chacao district, a traditional opposition bastion.

"On 23 January, the people of Venezuela have massively called for democracy and the possibility to freely determine their own destiny".

A veteran of Iraq war, she has been opposed to American interventionist policy overseas and is against deployment of USA troops in other countries.

"We make our recognition of the legitimate, constituted authority of Nicolas Maduro as constitutional president of Venezuela absolutely clear", said Moreno.

Indian-American Congressman Ro Khanna too slammed Trump for his new policy on Venezuela.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will "underscore the administration's support for the Venezuelan people" and urge Security Council members to recognise Guaido as the constitutional interim president, the State Department said.

Venezuela's descent into a political crisis began this week when a group of soldiers rose up against Maduro and sparked a number of protests leading up to major rival rallies on Wednesday opposing and supporting the socialist leader.

In a security alert on Thursday night, the US State Department also recommended that Americans residing or travelling in Venezuela "strongly consider departing" while commercial flights remained available, reports Efe news.

Guaido, a virtually unknown lawmaker at the start of the year, has reignited the hopes of Venezuela's often beleaguered opposition by taking a rebellious tack amid Venezuela's crushing economic crisis.

"They believe they have a colonial hold in Venezuela, where they decide what they want to do", Mr Maduro said in an address broadcast live on state TV.

Trump bluntly warned Maduro that "all options are on the table" if there is not a peaceful transition to democracy in the South American country.

Guaido's bold move capped three days of high tension that began Monday when a group of soldiers took over a command post in the capital Caracas and rose up against Maduro.

"(Simon) Bolivar used to curse against soldiers who give their back to the people", Guaido said, referring to Venezuela's independence hero.

Guaido took the helm of the National Assembly on January 5 with a call for the armed forces to recognize Maduro as a "usurper" after his May 2018 re-election, widely viewed as fraudulent.

United Nations chief Antonio Guterres on Thursday appealed for dialogue to stop Venezuela's political crisis spiraling out of control, after Guaido declared himself interim president.

Russia, which has had close relations with Venezuela under Maduro and Chavez, threw its weight behind the embattled Venezuelan leader.

Maduro's reelection past year was disputed by the opposition, and criticised internationally - but the socialist leader has until now retained the loyalty of the powerful military.

Maduro called home all Venezuelan diplomats from the US and closed its embassy in Washington.

Moscow has lent billions of dollars to Venezuela and has backed its oil industry.

Cuba also voiced support for Maduro on Twitter.

  • Eleanor Harrison