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After Venezuelan troops block aid, Maduro faces 'diplomatic siege'

CARACAS/WASHINGTON - Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro faces a new round of sanctions, regional leaders said on Sunday, after his troops repelled foreign aid convoys, with Brazil branding it criminal and urging allies to join a “liberation effort.”

Troops loyal to Maduro violently drove back aid convoys seeking to enter Venezuela on Saturday, leaving almost 300 wounded in clashes with security forces and at least three protesters dead near the Brazilian border.

Juan Guaido, recognized by most Western nations as Venezuela’s legitimate leader, urged foreign powers to consider “all options” in ousting Maduro, ahead of a meeting of the regional Lima Group of nations in Bogota on Monday that will be attended by U.S. Vice President Mike Pence.

“What happened yesterday is not going to deter us from getting humanitarian aid into Venezuela,” the official said, speaking with reporters on condition of anonymity.

Brazil, a diplomatic heavyweight in Latin America which has the region’s largest economy, was for years a vocal ally of Venezuela while it was ruled by the leftist Workers Party. It turned sharply against Maduro this year when far-right President Jair Bolsonaro took office.

“Brazil calls on the international community, especially those countries that have not yet recognized Juan Guaido as interim president, to join in the liberation effort of Venezuela,” the Brazilian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

China and Russia, which both have major energy sector investments in Venezuela, have supported Maduro’s government and condemned U.S. sanctions.

Meanwhile, Colombian President Ivan Duque, in a tweet, denounced the “barbarity and violence” and said Monday’s summit would discuss “how to tighten the diplomatic siege of the dictatorship in Venezuela.”

Venezuela’s Information Minister Jorge Rodriguez, during a Sunday news conference, gloated about the opposition’s failure to bring in aid and called Guaido “a puppet and a used condom.” Maduro has denounced Guaido for seeking to foment a U.S-orchestrated coup.


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