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As world looks on, Venezuela's Guaido to keep up pressure on Maduro

CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuela’s opposition on Thursday will seek to maintain pressure on isolated President Nicolas Maduro after congress chief Juan Guaido swore himself in as interim head of state with the support of nations around the region.

Guaido won diplomatic backing from the United States, Canada and right-leaning Latin American governments on Wednesday after declaring himself leader before ebullient supporters who thronged the streets of Caracas in hopes of change.

The European Union stopped short of recognizing Guaido as leader but said the democratic will of Venezuelans “cannot be ignored” and called for his “civil rights, freedom and safety” to be respected.

Guaido, 35, an industrial engineer catapulted almost overnight to national leader, has promised free and fair elections, a transition government to revive the hyperinflation-riddled economy and an amnesty for military officers if they help push Maduro from power.

He faces the daunting task of pushing forward the transition plan without control over crucial state institutions and armed forces that have disavowed him.

Military commanders, including Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino, have so far promised to stick with socialist Maduro. Padrino was scheduled to speak on Thursday in support of Maduro, hours after he said the armed forces would not recognize a president “imposed by shadowy interests.”

On Thursday morning, Venezuelan state television broadcast four separate messages from regional military commanders, surrounded by troops, voicing support for Maduro. The recorded messages were broadcast one after the other.

Russia, which has invested heavily in Venezuela’s oil industry and provided support to its armed forces, accused Washington of trying to usurp power in the country and warned against U.S. military intervention.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Russia had not received a Venezuelan request for military help and declined to say how it would respond if it did. But he said Maduro was the legitimate president.

Turkey took a similar line, with President Tayyip Erdogan calling Maduro to offer support.

Among investors holding defaulted debt issued by the government and state-run oil company PDVSA, the political developments fueled hopes that a resolution of the crisis might be coming closer.

Sovereign dollar and PDVSA bonds extended their rally on Thursday, having surged the previous day after Washington backed Guaido. Its 2024 sovereign dollar bond is now at its highest since autumn 2017 when Maduro publicly called for a debt restructuring.


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