Venezuela CRISIS: ‘This is OUR hemisphere!’ US warns Russia against protecting Maduro

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Venezuelans are continuing to heed opposition leader Juan Guaido’s call to take to the streets in a bid to force Mr Maduro from power. But there still isn’t any concrete sign of a change in a crisis that increasingly looks like heading for a political stalemate. Russia, which has continued to back Maduro over recent months, has been a major thorn in attempts from the US to oust the President from power.

Now the war of words between the feuding global superpowers has escalated further, with Washington issuing a strong warning to Russia regarding its interference in the crisis engulfing Venezuela.

Speaking outside the White House, US National Security Adviser John Bolton warned: “This is our hemisphere. It’s not where the Russians ought to be interfering.

“This is a mistake on their part. It’s not going to lead to an improvement of relations.”

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo claimed military action in Venezuela might be necessary “if that’s what’s required” to help calm the crisis in Venezuela.

What’s happening in Venezuela? Violent CHAOS as opposition calls for COUP

Speaking to Fox Business, he said he would prefer a peaceful transition, but also warned: “Military action is possible. If that’s what’s required, that’s what the United States will do.”

Russia immediately hit back at accusation it is meddling in the Venezuela crisis, by telling the Secretary of State the “destructive influence” of the US in the country is a violation of international law.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Washington’s own interference “has nothing to do with democracy, warning: “The pursual of these aggressive steps is fraught with consequences.”

On Tuesday, the US said Maduro was ready to step down and leave his country amid the growing uprising, but that Russia had advised him to stay.

Mr Pompeo told CNN that Maduro “had an airplane on the tarmac, he was ready to leave this morning as we understand, and the Russians indicated he should stay.”

Russia has strengthened military ties with Venezuela over recent years and sent nuclear-capable warplanes to conduct joint drills in the country in December – just a month after Guaido proclaimed himself acting leader.

Moscow has continued to send personnel to Caracas, but Russia’s embassy there suggested on Tuesday they would not get involved in fighting taking place on the streets.

Responding to the recent unrest, Russian President Vladimir Putin brought his Security Council together for a crunch meeting, with the Russian Foreign Ministry warning the “radical opposition in Venezuela has again resorted to violent methods of confrontation”.

The Ministry called “on all sides to renounce the use of violence” and for a dialogue “taken exclusively within the confines of the law, in strict conformity with the constitution and without destructive interference from outside the country.”

The latest war of words between the US and Russia over each other’s interference in Venezuela came after Mr Guaidó called for a military uprising to remove President Maduro from power.

Mr Guaidó called for massive protests across the country on Wednesday, and in a message posted on his social media accounts, urged the armed forces to take his side, adding Maduro did not have the military support.

He said: ”Today, Venezuela has the opportunity to peacefully rebel against a tyrant who is closing himself in.”

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