USA warns Venezuela's Maduro about intimidation, 'looting'

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In an area of greater Miami known as "Doral-zuela" due to its vibrant Venezuelan community, Vice President Mike Pence rallied support Friday for opposition leader Juan Guaidó.

The turmoil in Venezuela has morphed into a larger geopolitical standoff as Maduro accuses the USA of orchestrating a coup by backing Guaido and enacting punishing oil sanctions while powerful Venezuela allies China and Russian Federation continue to stand by the president.

Guaido said elite security forces went to his home to threaten his family, blaming the government of Maduro as worldwide support grew for his bid to oust the much-criticised leader.

The Florida Republican has praised the Trump administration for hitting Venezuela's state-owned oil company with sanctions.

Pence told the room filled with Venezeulan exiles that President Trump "asked me to be here to show our unwavering commitment to the good people of Venezuela".

Before Pence's speech, South Florida expat leader Carlos Vecchio-who is now the de facto ambassador to the USA for Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó, who with US support last month declared himself the country's legitimate president-told WLRN that the next step is indeed the humanitarian aid showdown.

Pence told dozens of Venezuelans that Washington was working toward a "peaceful transition" so opposition leader Juan Guaido rises to power.

Maduro, who began a second term last month after elections previous year that were dismissed by the West as a sham, has said he would be ready for talks with the opposition.

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Under Maduro's stewardship, oil-dependent Venezuela has lurched into an economic crisis that has left the country with hyperinflation and shortages of food and medicine.

Self-declared acting president Guaido, 35, had called Saturday's protest to ramp up the pressure on Maduro to step down.

"And something key that he said is that when the military arrives, the United States is going to deliver and protect the humanitarian aid".

"Such acts of intimidation are seen as very serious, very egregious by the United States", a senior US administration official told reporters on a conference call.

Towards the end of his speech, Guaido said that agents of Special Action Forces (FAES) were at his home.

Maduro has described the protests as part of a USA -led coup attempt and called on his supporters to organize their own march on Saturday in defence of his Bolivarian Revolution.

"In a few weeks they will have to choose if they let much needed aid into the country. or if they side with Nicolas Maduro", said Guaido, who recently offered an amnesty to members of the military in another effort to encourage them to defect from the Maduro administration. "We started to make noise", he said.

We have the agreement, the will and the professionals to immediately address the problems of Venezuelans, Guaido wrote on Twitter.

He said in an opinion piece for the New York Times on Wednesday that he had held "clandestine" meetings with the military to try to persuade them to withdraw their support for Maduro.

Russia, China, and Iran also support Maduro, as does Turkey.