Australia backs Juan Guaido as interim Venezuela president

Australia backs Juan Guaido as interim Venezuela president

The U.S. administration reiterated that threat Monday in announcing sweeping sanctions against Venezuela's state oil company.

A Venezuelan diplomat in Miami says she's abandoned embattled President Nicolas Maduro, throwing her support behind opposition leader Juan Guaido.

On Sunday, Israel and Australia also said they would be recognizing Guaido as Venezuela's interim president, joining the United States, Canada and a host of Latin American and European countries. President Nicolas Maduro played up their symbolic importance during an address broadcast across the country.

Guaido said opposition sympathizers should take to the streets on Wednesday to pass out copies of a pamphlet proposing amnesty that would give some legal protection to members of the military in hopes they will turn against Maduro. White House officials had also expressed concern about inflicting further hardship on the Venezuelan people.

Any actions taken against U.S. diplomats, Guaido or the National Assembly he presides over would be considered a "grave assault" that "will be met with a significant response", U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton said. He said, "If Maduro stays in power, Venezuela could suffer a humanitarian catastrophe".

PDVSA's US-based subsidiary Citgo will be able to continue operations, as long as its earnings are deposited into a blocked account in the United States.

There was no immediate response from the U.S.

The Treasury secretary added that in the "short term" he expects "modest" impact on USA refineries.

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He said a loss of fast money from Citgo and the USA market will crush already weakened oil production in Venezuela.

"The increase in drilling activity in the U.S. as reported by the oil service provider Baker Hughes on Friday evening is generating headwind", Commerzbank said in a note. At that time, the US government froze Libya's assets in answer to Libya's campaign against protesters during the Arab Spring uprising. He gave U.S. diplomats three days to leave the county - but the Trump administration said it wouldn't obey.

The administration is using "a scalpel, rather than a meat ax", he said in an email.

Senator Marco Rubio, a vocal critic of Maduro who has called for such sanctions, welcomed the move even before it was announced.

Venezuela is very reliant on the U.S. for its oil revenue. He praised USA efforts to "support the restoration of democracy in Venezuela" but said "there are more questions than answers about the administration's strategy".

Maduro, who was first elected president in 2013 by a thin margin following the death of socialist leader Hugo Chavez, is deeply unpopular. Reuters reported last Friday that private military contractors who do secret missions for Russian Federation flew into Venezuela to beef up security for Mr Maduro.

USA officials successfully lobbied the the Bank of England to deny Maduro access to US$1.2 billion worth of gold the government holds in London, stymieing the regime's efforts to pull in cash from overseas.

Guaido was recognized as the legitimate interim president by a number of countries, including the United States, which has slapped tough economic sanctions on the Maduro regime.

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