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US seeks UN draft resolution calling for Venezuela elections

Under the guidance of President Nicolas Maduro, Venezuela has descended into economic crisis marked by hyperinflation, recession and shortages of basic necessities including food and medicine
Fears of US intervention grow after Pompeo says 'we have an obligation to take down that risk for America'

The United States has shared with its UN Security Council allies a draft resolution calling for international aid to be delivered in Venezuela and for a presidential vote to take place.

While no date has yet been set for a vote on the American draft, and negotiations are ongoing, Russia is likely to use its veto power to block it as part of its support of Nicolas Maduro's regime, diplomats said.

The text, a copy of which was obtained by AFP on Saturday, expresses "full support for the National Assembly as the only democratically elected institution in Venezuela."

The legislative body's chairman, Juan Guaido, has declared himself interim president of Venezuela, challenging Maduro's rule.

The draft resolution stresses "deep concern with the violence and excessive use of force by Venezuelan security forces against unarmed, peaceful protesters."


It also "calls for the immediate start of a political process leading to free, fair and credible presidential elections, with international electoral observation, in line with Venezuela's constitution."

The text also requests that UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres "utilize his good offices" to obtain such elections.

It also "stresses the need to prevent further deterioration of the humanitarian situation in Venezuela and to facilitate access and delivery of assistance to all in need in the entirety of the territory of Venezuela."

On Friday, Moscow proposed an alternative text to the American one, diplomats said.

Humanitarian aid sent by the United States recently arrived in the Colombian city of Cucuta at the border with Venezuela, but Maduro has refused to let in the shipments.

Guaido said Friday he was ready to take any necessary measures, including authorizing a US military intervention, to force Maduro from power and alleviate the humanitarian crisis.


Meanwhile, indigenous leaders in the southern province of Bolivar has said the community, which straddles the border with Brazil, and has control over the only paved border crossing, will let any aid into the country.

Leaders of the Pemon people, who retain a degree of autonomy, and have previously been involved in skirmishes with government forces, havegrown increasingly worried about the well-being and access to healthcare of the local population.

"If humanitarian aid arrives and is prevented from entering, we will suspend the entry of government trucks too," Angel Paez, a Pemon leader from the Akurimo territory of Gran Sabana, told Reuters.

"If there aren’t for the people, then there won’t be for the government."


-- Maduro seeking solace in Russian support --

The US called on the military, which is critical to the sway of power in Venezuela, to align with Guaido. 

On Saturday, an active-duty Venezuelan army colonel who is a military doctor has dropped his allegiance to President Nicolas Maduro, backing opposition leader Juan Guaido instead.

"Ninety percent of us in the armed forces are really unhappy," said Colonel Ruben Paz Jimenez in a video released Saturday. "We are being used to keep them in power."

A week ago, Air Force General Francisco Yanez also dropped his allegiance to Maduro.

It is widely believed in pro-Maduro circles and media across the world that the United States is looking to military action to depose the embattled president, and US rhetoric might be confirming their fears.

A power cut during a presidential allocution on Saturday had some expecting the worst, with the presidential guard scrambling to prevent a potential raid.

The US has recognized Juan Guaido's claim to the presidency from day one, with the opposition leader reportedly having travelled to Washington prior to the announcement in order to ensure US support.

Earlier this week, US secretary of state Mike Pompeo warned against the presence of "active Hezbollah cells" in Venezuela.

"The Iranians are impacting the lives of people in Venezuela, and we have an obligation to take down that risk for America," the secretary of state said in an interview on Fox Business.

The Lebanese militant group, labeled as a terrorist group internationally, is backed by Iran.

Johannes EISELE (AFP)

President Trump had earlier said that "all options remained on the table" when it comes to the crisis in the oil-rich country.

Maduro has benefited from the support of a group of powerful countries, including Russia, Iran, China and Turkey.

According to sources quoted in news agency Reuters, state-run oil company PVDSA has asked its partners to commit to its joint ventures, and pay deposits into a newly-opened account with Russia's Gazprombank.

This is reportedly to circumvent US sanctions aiming to prevent the Maduro administration from accessing oil revenues.

Venezuela is one of the world's leading oil producers, but there has been growing uncertainty about its ability to keep the industry afloat after some of its main partners, including oil giant Total, decided to move their staff out of the country.


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