Bolton warns Venezuelan military to oust Maduro, 'accept Guaido'
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Bolton warns Venezuelan military to oust Maduro, 'accept Guaido'

US National Security Advisor John Bolton called on Venezuela's Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino and presidential guard commander Ivan Rafael Hernandez as well as other key officials in the military to oust Maduro on Tuesday, amid anti-government protests and an opposition-led military coup attempt in Venezuela. "And it is time for them now, if the Cubans will let them do it, to fulfill their commitments and it is time for the rest of the military to show what their own families believe ought to happen and that is Maduro needs to go," Bolton told reporters at the White House. The US official reiterated that "all options remain on the table”, also claiming the situation in Caracas was “not a coup” and that the main US objective was "a peaceful transfer of power." "I want to stress again, the president wants to see a peaceful transfer of power from Maduro to Guaido. That possibility still exists if enough figures depart from the regime and support the opposition and that is what we (would) like to see," he said. Adopting a more belligerent tone, Bolton warned Padrino and Hernandez in a tweet later that they had to force Maduro to give up power to Guaido. "Your time is up. This is your last chance. Accept Interim President Guaido's amnesty, protect the Constitution, and remove Maduro, and we will take you off our sanctions list. Stay with Maduro, and go down with the ship," Bolton wrote. Earlier in the day, a small group of Venezuelan soldiers declared their support for Guaido, who called on the rest of the military and the public to join in ousting Maduro. Clashes broke out as supporters of the opposition leader started hurling stones and Molotov cocktails at Venezuelan security forces, who were forced to use tear gas to disperse the crowds. US President Donald Trump said in a tweet he was following the situation "very closely," and that Washington supported “the freedom of the Venezuelan people.” Trump also threatened to hit Cuba with a full embargo, accusing Havana of military support for Maduro. This is while, the notorious US security firm Blackwater offered to deploy an army of 5,000 mercenaries to help oust the 56-year-old Venezuelan president. EU urges 'utmost restraint' in Venezuela Also on Tuesday, the European Union called for "utmost restraint" in Venezuela and a “political, peaceful and democratic way” out of the latest crisis gripping the country in the aftermath of an opposition-led coup. "The EU is closely following the latest events in Venezuela. We reiterate that there can only be a political, peaceful and democratic way out for the multiple crises the country is facing," EU diplomatic chief Federica Mogherini said in a statement. Venezuela has been shaken by political unrest in the past several months. In January, tensions worsened after Guaido, president of the defunct National Assembly, abruptly declared himself “interim president” of Venezuela, challenging the outcome of last year’s presidential election, in which Maduro emerged victorious. The Trump administration immediately recognized Guaido’s self-proclamation and has since been mounting economic pressure on Caracas, repeatedly threatening to use military force to topple Maduro’s government.  Washington has also confiscated Venezuela’s US-based oil assets in an attempt to channel revenue from them to Guaido. Maduro has repeatedly accused Washington of openly pushing for a coup in the Latin American country. Caracas has accused Washington of waging an economic war, which has led to hyperinflation and widespread shortages of food and medicine in Venezuela.

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