Venezuela's opposition leader Guaido courts Russia, China; powers divided on Maduro

A Boeing freight jet owned by the Russian airline Yerofei

Guaido, the National Assembly president, has led opposition to Maduro since he was elected to his post in December.

A general from the Venezuelan air force has announced he no longer recognises Nicolas Maduro as the country's president, in what appears to be the highest ranking military defection to hit the regime.

He told officials: "Do not cross the red line".

China's foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said cooperation between the countries would continue "no matter how the situation changes" in Venezuela.

"We've been imposing economic sanctions, increasing political pressure from around the world", he said.

The United States, which immediately recognized Guaido's self-proclamation, along with a dozen Latin American countries, Canada and Australia, has warned Maduro of "serious consequences" if he targets opponents.

Vice President Mike Pence speaks at event in support of Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido at Iglesia Doral Jesus Worship Center in Doral, Fla., Feb. 1, 2019.

In a possible sign of Maduro's weakening support, riot police who had planned on blocking demonstrators from reaching the rallies chose to let them pass in at least three cities, according to Guaido and Reuters witnesses.

Turkey's president, Tayyip Erdogan, has stood by Maduro, calling him last week to express support. They had, though, been weighed and separated for shipment, the person said.

Maduro, Chavez's handpicked successor, is facing the most serious challenge to his legitimacy yet, with the United States, Canada and almost a dozen Latin American countries piling on pressure for his removal from office.

Republican U.S. Senator Marco Rubio sent a tweet to the United Arab Emirates embassy in Washington on Thursday warning that anybody transporting Venezuelan gold would be subject to U.S. sanctions.

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On Saturday, Maduro said he was willing to sit down for talks with the opposition in an effort to promote national "harmony".

It also voted to condemn the continued violence and the detention of journalists in the South American country.

Still, Maduro is clinging to power, and intimidating the opposition while he's at it. Sen.

Spain's National Institute of Statistics says the number of people born in Venezuela who live in Spain jumped from 165,000 in 2015 to 255,000 previous year.

On Thursday workers from Venezuela's state oil company PDVSA - hit by new USA sanctions this week - held an "anti-imperialist" march in support of Maduro.

US National Security Advisor John Bolton on Thursday said Maduro should accept Guaido's amnesty officer.

Associated Press writers Scott Smith, Joshua Goodman and Jorge Rueda contributed reporting from Caracas, Venezuela. They form an important voting constituency in a swing state often critical to the outcome of USA national elections.

Pursuant to the request of Interim President Juan Guaido, and in consultation with his officials the U.S. will mobilize and transport humanitarian aid_medicine, surgical supplies, and nutritional supplements for the people of Venezuela.

Although Arellano, along and his wife Mayra Lopez, left a year ago, they say the problems back home have only gotten worse.

"The use of sanctions by outside powers to overthrow an elected government is in violation of all norms of worldwide law", he said in a statement in Geneva.