The Latest: Move to bar travel by Venezuela challenger


CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — The latest on the political and economic crisis in Venezuela (all times local):

6:55 p.m.

The Venezuelan opposition’s new envoy in Washington is calling for the international community to ramp up pressure on the socialist government of President Nicolas Maduro.

Carlos Vecchio was appointed by opposition leader Juan Guaido and he met with Vice President Mike Pence at the White House on Tuesday. He emerged saying that Venezuelans are in a fight “between democracy and dictatorship” and that “we cannot do this alone.”

Maduro broke diplomatic ties with the U.S. last week after the Trump administration recognized Guaido as Venezuela’s rightful president. Guaido is head of Venezuela’s opposition-controlled congress.

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Vecchio says the opposition is focused on ending Maduro’s dictatorship and forming a transitional government that moves “to stop the suffering of the Venezuelans.” The opposition is calling for free elections as soon as possible.

Venezuela is suffering from an economic collapse that has led to severe shortages of food and medicine and caused millions to flee the country.


3:55 p.m.

Venezuela’s embattled President Nicolas Maduro is seeking to beef up his nation’s defense in response to growing tensions with the United States.

Maduro spoke before a gathering of troops Tuesday and set a new goal of expanding Venezuela’s civilian armed militia to 2 million members by mid-April.

The reserve force was created by the late Hugo Chavez to train civilians to assist the armed forces and defend the socialist revolution from attacks.

The move comes as U.S.-Venezuela relations grow increasingly hostile, with the U.S. withdrawing recognition of Maduro’s government.

Most analysts believe a U.S. military intervention in Venezuela is unlikely but President Donald Trump has said “all options are on the table.”

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Acting U.S. Defense Secretary Pat Shanahan on Tuesday wouldn’t rule out sending U.S. military forces to Colombia or the region in connection with the political upheaval.


3:25 p.m.

U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton is reiterating his warning that there will be “serious consequences” for anyone who attempts to harm Venezuela opposition leader Juan Guaido.

In a tweet Tuesday, Bolton denounced what he called “threats” to Guaido made earlier in the day by Venezuela’s chief prosecutor.

He added that those who “attempt to subvert democracy” or hurt Guaido will face consequences but did not specify what those may be.

The U.S. and several other countries recognize the National Assembly leader as the interim president of Venezuela, arguing that last year’s re-election of President Nicolas Maduro was a sham.

Attorney General Tarek William Saab asked the government-stacked Supreme Court Tuesday to ban Guaido from leaving the country and freeze his bank accounts.

Tensions between the U.S. and Venezuela are at an all-time high as the Trump administration moves to consolidate support for Guaido.


3:15 p.m.

Vice President Mike Pence will meet Tuesday afternoon with Carlos Vecchio, a new Venezuelan envoy in Washington appointed by opposition leader Juan Guaido.

The meeting will take place one day after the Trump administration sanctioned Venezuela’s state-owned oil company, ratcheting up pressure on President Nicolas Maduro to cede power to the U.S.-backed opposition in the oil-rich South American nation.

Guaido, head of Venezuela’s opposition-controlled congress, proclaimed himself interim president last week in opposition to socialist President Nicolas Maduro, and his legitimacy has been backed by the U.S. and two dozen other nations.

2:45 p.m.

Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido is pressing forward with efforts to form a transitional government by naming a new slate of diplomats.

Venezuela’s legislature has approved nearly a dozen new mission chiefs in countries that recognize Guaido as interim president.

The National Assembly is led by Guaido and is the only branch of Venezuela’s government recognized by the U.S. and several other nations.

Nicolas Maduro broke diplomatic ties with the U.S. last week after the Trump administration recognized Guaido as Venezuela’s rightful president.

Guaido has urged all Venezuelan consulate staff in the U.S. to back him and remain in their posts — a call that at least a few appeared to be heeding.

Tuesday’s new appointees to countries like the United States and to the regional Lima Group bloc include longtime opposition leaders like Julio Borges, at least some of whom had already left the country to avoid possible arrest.


12:30 p.m.

The U.S. State Department says Americans shouldn’t travel to Venezuela and it warns of unrest and the threat of arbitrary arrest and detention.

Tuesday’s announcement raises the travel advisory to its highest level.

Venezuela is gripped by raising political instability as U.S.-backed opposition leader Juan Guaido presses to oust socialist President Nicolas Maduro.

Officials have cleared the U.S. embassy in Caracas of everybody but essential staff.

The travel advisory warns of the threat of kidnapping, robberies and mass demonstrations occurring with little notice.

Opposition leaders have called for anti-government demonstrations this week.


12:15 p.m.

Venezuela’s chief prosecutor is seeking to ban opposition leader Juan Guaido from leaving the country as part of a criminal probe into his anti-government activities.

Tarek William Saab made the request to the government-stacked Supreme Court on Tuesday.

He also asked the high court to block Guaido’s financial accounts.

Saab didn’t specify what crimes Guaido is being investigated for. He only said it was tied to the unrest sparked by his decision to declare himself interim president last week in a direct challenge to President Nicolas Maduro’s authority.

Guaido heads the nation’s congress and he has been recognized as the nation’s rightful leader by two dozen nations that contend the re-election of socialist President Nicolas Maduro was a sham, in part because his strongest opponents were barred from running.


10:50 a.m.

International challenges to the legitimacy of President Nicolas Maduro’s government are starting to bite harder. The United States is handing control over Venezuela’s U.S. bank accounts to opposition challenger Juan Guaido and Russia says it expects Venezuela to have problems paying its debts.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Tuesday certified that Guaido has 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.

Guaido has been recognized as the nation’s rightful leader by two dozen nations that contend the re-election of socialist President Nicolas Maduro was a sham, in part because his strongest opponents were barred from running.

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