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US Advises Americans to Leave Venezuela

Military backs embattled president, defying wishes of US
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 25, 2019 9:55 AM CST
Nicolas Maduro speaks to his supporters from a balcony at Miraflores presidential palace in Caracas, Venezuela, on Wednesday.   (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)
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(Newser) – All Americans should "strongly consider departing" Venezuela, the US State Department said late Thursday as it ordered all non-emergency government staff to leave the country torn by a power struggle. "We are prepared to do the things we need to do to make sure we keep our people safe," a rep says, per the Guardian, while NBC News reports the embassy remains open. The US previously ignored an order from President Nicolas Maduro to remove consular staff amid the crisis. However, the State Department directive came as the head of Venezuela's armed forces accused the US and allies of collaborating with the opposition to launch a "criminal plan" to unseat Maduro, to whom he pledged his full support. The Guardian calls the military's decision to back Maduro a "significant blow" to Juan Guaidó, whom the US recognizes as interim leader.

"We are here to avoid, at all costs … a conflict between Venezuelans," said defense minister Vladimir Padrino in an address to the nation Thursday. He called for dialogue. The UN's human rights chief has already called for an investigation into "excessive use of force by the authorities" given reports that at least 20 people have died and more than 350 have been detained in the unrest, per Reuters. The US has called for an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council on Saturday, but Russia—holding veto power—appears to be on the side of Maduro. President Vladimir Putin, who spoke with Maduro by phone, agrees the crisis was "provoked from abroad" and should be handled internally, per a Kremlin statement. (More on the unrest here.)

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