Reuters Reports Russian Military Contractors Operating In Venezuela

Guaido greets supporters after taking an oath to be Venezuela's interim president

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has said Friday that he severed only diplomatic relations with the United States while social and economic ties with the country "continue and will develop". President Donald Trump promised to use the "full weight" of US economic and diplomatic power to push for the restoration of Venezuela's democracy.

"What we're focusing on today is disconnecting the illegitimate Maduro regime from the sources of his revenues", National Security Adviser John Bolton told reporters at the White House on Thursday.

Donald Trump says "all options are on the table" as the USA seeks to push Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro to give up power.

Bolton added that the process was "very complicated" and that officials were still studying how this would function.

The news agency reported that the Russian Defense Ministry and Venezuela's Information Ministry did not respond to requests for comment about the contractors.

A half-dozen generals belonging largely to district commands and with direct control over thousands of troops joined Maduro in accusing the United States of meddling in Venezuela's affairs and said they would uphold the socialist leader's rule.

"To get out of Venezuela", said Maduro, who also ordered the closure of the Venezuelan embassy and all of his country's consulates in the US.

The European Union and U.S. ratcheted up the pressure on Maduro to agree to new elections, with an EU diplomat telling AFP the bloc wanted "an immediate call for elections in the near future".

But any change of government will rest on a shift in allegiance within the armed forces.

His ascent was greeted with excitement by investors holding Venezuela and state oil company PDVSA bonds, which hit their highest level since 2017 despite being nearly entirely in default.

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Oil prices edged higher on Friday as the political turmoil threatened to tighten the global supply of crude.

Guaido's team is planning to name a new board to state-run oil firm PDVSA's US unit Citgo Petroleum and a new representative to the Inter-American Development Bank, two sources familiar with the discussions said.

Mr Guaido's political mentor, Leopoldo Lopez, was arrested in 2014, one of dozens of opposition activists and leaders the government jailed for seeking to overthrow Mr Maduro through violent street demonstrations in 2014 and 2017.

Backing for him has come principally from the Western hemisphere.

Trump meanwhile has openly mused about military intervention in Venezuela, saying "all options are on the table", and analysts suggest he could consider further economic sanctions against the country, a third of whose oil production goes to the US.

The opposition's move aims "to ridicule the democratic will of the Venezuelan people" and "break with the constitutional order duly established in the country", Moreno said.

Protests both for and against Maduro's government broke out following Guaido's declaration of himself as the President on Tuesday. He said it was the only way to end the Maduro "dictatorship" in Venezuela, which has seen millions flee in recent years to escape sky-high inflation and food shortages.

In mid-December, Guaido quietly traveled to Washington, Colombia and Brazil to brief officials on the opposition's strategy of mass demonstrations to coincide with Maduro's expected swearing-in for a second term on January 10 in the face of widespread worldwide condemnation, according to exiled former Caracas Mayor Antonio Ledezma, an ally.

All that means that the military's top brass remains beholden to Maduro and is likely too frightened of losing its standing or going to jail to betray him, according to experts on Venezuela's military.

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