Americans are being warned not to travel to Venezuela by the State Department over ‘crime, civil unrest, poor health infrastructure and the arbitrary arrest of US citizens’.
The department’s decision to raise the advisory level to ‘do not travel’ came after President Donald Trump become one of about 20 world leaders to recognize opposition leader Juan Guaido as the country’s interim president.
The sanctions will hit state-owned PDVSA, Venezuela’s largest source of revenue, as President Nicolas Maduro faces a challenge from Mr Guaido, who has won the backing of the US and other Western nations.
The warnings from Beijing have been echoed by the former president of Uruguay, José Mujica, who said ‘the drums of war are sounding strong,’ and that Venezuela is facing ‘imminent open conflict’.
Eastern backing: Russia and China has come out in support of embattled Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro
Vladimir Putin’s Russia has condemned US sanctions against Venezuela’s state oil company as ‘illegal’, while Xi Jinping’s China warned that they would hurt the livelihoods of ordinary people
This comes as Guaido declared all options are on the table when asked about a possible military option in Venezuela during an interview with CNN.
Guaido said he believed he could achieve a peaceful transition away from Maduro and eventually free elections.
However, he also said he had spoken to US President Donald Trump a number of times and, when asked about possible military options in Venezuela, said all options were on the table.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo later certified that Guaido has been given authority to take control of bank accounts that Venezuela’s government has in the Federal Reserve Bank of New York or any other U.S.-insured banks.
Sanctions: President Donald Trump has said a military intervention in Venezuela is an option
Running for president: Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, center, jogs alongside his Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino Lopez, right, and soldiers as he visits Ft. Paramacay in Carabobo state on Sunday
Backed by the West: Opposition leader Juan Guaido said he hoped for a peaceful transition, but echoed US President Donald Trump when he said ‘all options are on the table’
Pompeo said Tuesday the certification will ‘help Venezuela’s legitimate government safeguard those assets for the benefit of the Venezuelan people.’
Maduro responded by addressing the US President directly in a speech in Caracas today.
Foregoing his native Spanish for English, Maduro said: ‘Donald Trump, do not get involved with Venezuela! Hands off Venezuela! Donald Trump, hands off Venezuela!’
Maduro has strong backing from Russia, with Moscow ‘wholly supporting’ his view that the sanctions are illegal.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov called the sanctions an ‘overt intervention in Venezuela’s domestic affairs’ and a case of ‘illegal competition’.
Protesters arrive at the control post of the presidential residence, known as La Casona, to deliver the Amnesty Law, approved by parliament, which tells troops they are guaranteed protection if they defy Maduro
Supporters of Venezuela’s opposition leader Juan Guaido attend a rally with members of the Venezuela’s National Assembly regarding an amnesty law project for members of the military, in Caracas, Venezuela
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that the sanctions ‘violate all possible international norms’ and show a course toward regime change in embattled Venezuela.
‘The US has… publicly taken a course toward illegal regime change,’ he said Tuesday, adding that Russia will ‘do everything to support the legitimate government of president Maduro.’
In Beijing, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said his government opposes unilateral sanctions against Venezuela.
‘Historical experience has proved that external interference or sanctions will only complicate the situation and will not help solve practical problems,’ Geng said.
The sanctions ‘will lead to a deterioration of the people’s livelihoods in Venezuela, and (those who imposed them) should be responsible for the serious consequences.’
Uruguay’s former President Jose Mujica, pictured in October, said Venezuela faces ‘imminent open war’ and that Trump declaring a military option as on the table had ‘the smell of oil’
At least 40 people are believed to have been killed in Venezuela’s recent violence, including 26 shot by pro-government forces, the United Nations said today.
More than 850 people were detained between January 21 and January 26, including 77 children, some as young as 12.
On January 23, 696 people were detained across the country, the highest daily number of detentions in Venezuela in 20 years.
In an interview with Uruguayan newspaper El Periodico, ex-President Mujica said ‘the drums of war in the Caribbean are sounding strong because of the Venezuelan situation’.
He called it ‘childish’ to discuss the legitimacy of either Maduro or Guaido, and said the ‘the painfully serious thing is the imminence of open war’ facing Venezuela.
In the wake of Donald Trump’s declaration that ‘all options are on the table’ – echoed by Guaido today – Mujica said ‘interests always move behind the war’, and that in the case of Venezuela, these had ‘the smell of oil’.
‘The raw, hard and naked truth is that the most conservative in the United States cannot accept that China and Russia end up handling the fate of Venezuelan oil, which is the root cause of the sudden impatience [to depose Maduro] that has attacked the United States.’