Venezuelan showdown moves to UN as duelling presidents dig in

UNITED NATIONS (AP) – Venezuela’s political showdown moved to the United Nations yesterday where a Security Council meeting called by the United States pitted backers of President Nicolas Maduro against the Trump administration and supporters of the country’s self-declared interim leader Juan Guaido.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo addressed the meeting along with Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza and the other council members, which include supporters of both dueling presidents.

The session focusing on Venezuela’s crisis comes a day after Guaido vowed to remain on the streets until his country has a transitional government, while Maduro dug in and accused his opponents of orchestrating a coup.

“They can cut a flower, but they will never keep spring from coming,” Guaido told supporters on Friday, alluding to a similar phrase from the Chilean poet Pablo Neruda.

In rival press conferences, Guaido urged his followers to stage another mass protest next week, while Maduro pushed his call for dialogue.

Each man appeared ready to defend his claim to the presidency no matter the cost, with Guaido telling supporters that if he is arrested they should “stay the course” and peacefully protest.

But the standoff could set the scene for more violence and has plunged troubled Venezuela into a new chapter of political turmoil that rights groups say has already left more than two dozen dead as thousands take to the street demanding Maduro step down.

Supporters of opposition leader Juan Guaido and the press gather around him as he leaves a public plaza in Caracas, Venezuela. – AP