Venezuelans ‘live in dictatorship’ under Maduro

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Venezuela’s opposition leader has told the BBC that people are living in a “dictatorship”, and renewed his calls for fresh elections.

Juan Guaidó declared himself interim leader last week and has been recognised by more than 20 countries, including the US.

President Nicolás Maduro retains the support of Russia, which has accused the US of “illegal” interference.

The UN says that 40 people are believed to have been killed in recent unrest.

Protests have been growing since Mr Maduro began a second term as president this month. He was elected last year during a controversial vote in which many opposition candidates were barred from running or jailed.

Venezuela has been struggling with a massive economic crisis. Hyperinflation and shortages of essentials such as food and medicine have forced millions to flee the nation.

What has Mr Guaidó been saying?

Speaking to BBC Mundo in Caracas on Monday, he defended his claim to be interim leader.

Mr Guaidó said the Venezuelan constitution allowed him, as the head of the National Assembly, to take power when the president was considered to be illegitimate.

“My duty is to call for free elections because there is an abuse of power and we live in a dictatorship,” Mr Guaidó said.

He added: “In Venezuela, we either accept domination, total oppression and torture… from Maduro’s regime or we choose freedom, democracy and prosperity for our people.”

Mr Guaidó said the Maduro administration was “killing young poor people” in the streets.

He has pledged to act as interim leader to oversee fresh elections in the country. However, his declaration of leadership has divided the international community.

Mr Guaidó has called for further demonstrations this week, after tens of thousands came out to protest against Mr Maduro last Wednesday.

What is the latest in the diplomatic row?

Russia renewed its criticism of what it calls US interference on Tuesday.

It came after US National Security Adviser John Bolton announced sanctions against Venezuela’s state-owned oil firm PDVSA.

Mr Bolton said the move was to ensure President Maduro and his allies could “no longer loot the assets of the Venezuelan people”. He again appealed to the military to switch allegiance to Mr Guaidó

Sergei Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister, sharply criticised the sanctions, which he said “violate all possible international norms” in pursuit of regime change.

Mr Lavrov also “pledged to do everything to support the legitimate government of President Maduro”, during a Tuesday news conference.

The Russian ministry of finance said on Tuesday that it expected Venezuela to keep up debt repayments it owed, despite the ongoing crisis.

 

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