Venezuelan military vows to back Maduro amid unrest

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A growing number of countries have lined up behind Guaido, the head of the National Assembly, who declared himself president under Articles 333 and 350 of the Venezuelan Constitution amid mass anti-government protests over the country's economic crisis.

Juan Guaidó, who has also been declared Venezuela's legitimate ruler by the United States, Britain, Canada and most of Latin America, offered Mr Maduro amnesty if he left power.

On Thursday, Venezuelan Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino allied with Maduro, calling him the country's "legitimate president" and disavowing Guaido's declaration as the leader.

Oxhorn said if the Venezuelan military were to drop its support for Maduro that may create a path to peaceful change.

But Russia, Iran, Syria and China have thrown their weight behind Maduro, with the Kremlin accusing the United States or orchestrating an attempted coup.

Major regional players Brazil, Colombia, Chile and Peru all gave their backing to Juan Guaido's self-proclamation as Venezuela's acting president, which he made in front of crowd of tens of thousands of supporters in Caracas.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo responded on Wednesday, stating that it would conduct relations with Guaido.

Venezuelan authorities said they had put down an attempted revolt on Monday by rogue military officers about a kilometre from the presidential palace in Caracas.

United States President Donald Trump said yesterday that he recognised Guaido as the new president, a sentiment that found approval with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Lawmakers in Russian Federation, which has close relations with Venezuela, are sharply critical of Trump's recognition of Guaido.

Mr Trump has sided with Mr Guaido because the United States administration sees Mr Maduro's Government as an "illegitimate regime".

"Maduro has violated the constitution along with the other branches, it's all taken hostage", said Dilia Ortiz, an independent local merchant who welcomed American and worldwide support for Guaidó, who swore himself in as president Wednesday.

The move comes as opposition leaders call for Venezuela's military to turn against Maduro. "It's really important that the democratic worldwide support for a change in Venezuela really get their act together, be consistent and make it very clear that invasion, military means, is not going to happen".

Trump so far has stopped short of taking the harshest economic measures - sanctioning OPEC member Venezuela's vital oil sector - but, according to people familiar with the matter, even that is under is under consideration if Maduro cracks down hard on the opposition. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo dismissed the order as irrelevant, but all non-emergency US government staff were still ordered to leave the country, and all American citizens were urged to "strongly consider" doing the same.

"Our challenge is to secure free elections, and we want them as soon as possible".

However, those pushing for the coup were apparently not very much concerned about the legal formalities but were instead focused on their own interests, according to Correa, who said the development set a unsafe precedent for such an approach to be extended on any other country, whose "government the USA does not like", regardless of whether it is democratic or not.

He added that "Brazil will support politically and economically the process of transition so that democracy and social peace return to Venezuela". "But we are living in a dictatorship", he said, from an undisclosed location.