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Venezuela’s Guaido visits Argentina and Paraguay in bid to drum up support

Agustin Marcarian, Reuters | Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido, who many nations have recognized as the country's rightful interim ruler, gestures to Venezuelan citizens in Buenos Aires, Argentina, March 1, 2019.

Venezuela’s self-declared President Juan Guaido visited Paraguay and Argentina on Friday to shore up Latin American support for a transitional government in the crisis-stricken nation.

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Following a meeting with Argentine President Mauricio Macri in Buenos Aires, Guaido said, without providing evidence, that 80 percent of Venezuela's military nonetheless supported a change in leadership and that he would continue to seek the support of officers.

Earlier on Friday in Paraguay, he said 600 members of Venezuela's armed forces had already abandoned Maduro's government following the clashes over the aid.

Foreign military intervention is seen as unlikely and Guaido's international backers are instead using a mix of sanctions and diplomacy to try to put pressure to bear on Maduro.

Guaido slipped out of Venezuela last week, in violation of a Supreme Court order not to leave the country, to join the aid convoys in Colombia. There, he met with US Vice President Mike Pence and other regional leaders and later traveled to Brazil.

He has promised to return to Venezuela by Monday, seen as a form of direct defiance to Maduro, who has said Guaido will eventually "face justice."

Argentina calls for Guaido’s safe return

The Argentine foreign ministry said in a statement that it expects the peaceful and safe return of the opposition leader to Venezuela, without risk to him, his family or his supporters.

"Any act of intimidation or violence against the acting president, his family and his inner circle will be considered the responsibility of the Maduro regime," the ministry's statement said.

On Thursday, Guaido told reporters in Brazil that he had received threats against himself and his family, including prison.

Paraguayan President Mario Abdo tweeted on Friday evening that he authorised expired Venezuelan passports to be valid in Paraguay, a gesture of support for Venezuelans who have fled their home country.

Governments around the region have called on Maduro to let aid in as inflation above 2 million percent per year and chronic shortages of food have left some eating from garbage bins in order to ward off malnutrition.

Maduro has called the US-backed humanitarian aid effort a veiled invasion meant to push him from power, and has insisted that there is no crisis in the country.

Russia has accused the United States of preparing to intervene militarily in Venezuela and, along with China, blocked a US bid this week to get the United Nations Security Council to take action on Venezuela.

Guaido is scheduled to travel to Ecuador on Saturday to meet with President Lenin Moreno.

(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS)

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