Supporters of Opposition, Maduro demonstrate in Caracas
April 7, 2019 | 6:39 PM
by Times News Service
Supporters of Venezuelan President Nicholas Maduro and opposition leader Juan Guaido held rallies nationwide as rifts in the country continued to grow.

Caracas: Supporters of Venezuelan President Nicholas Maduro and opposition leader Juan Guaido held rallies nationwide as rifts in the country continued to grow.

Demonstrators rallied in support of opposition leader Guaido, who called 6 April the beginning of Operation Libertad. It, he said, would be "the start of a definitive phase to end the usurpation, where we are all now agents of change."

Speaking to thousands of supporters, Guaido stated, "Venezuela is not afraid and continues taking the streets until we achieve freedom."

It was the first rally Guaido led after Venezuela's National Constituent Assembly on Tuesday unanimously approved the revocation of Guaido's parliamentary immunity, which would allow Venezuelan authorities to detain him.

Elsewhere in the capital, those backing Maduro waved flags and danced to music while marching to the presidential palace.

"Fill the streets of Caracas with joy and folk colors to show anti-imperialist Venezuela! Let protect peace and national independence together, in constant mobilization. No to interference!" Maduro tweeted.

In the northwestern city of Maracaibo, two opposition politicians were temporarily arrested and some demonstrators were injured in clashes with the police, local media reported.

A series of widespread blackouts have disrupted production and daily life in Venezuela since it suffered a major worst blackout on 7 March when a power outage plunged most of the country into darkness for around five days and led to shortages of water and gas.

Venezuela's opposition claims the power failures are the result of mismanagement and corruption, while the government has claimed that the outages have been deliberately caused by pro-opposition agents.

The US also announced new sanctions against companies operating in Venezuela.

The Treasury Department announced that it had sanctioned Cuban companies operating in Venezuela's oil sector.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, said, "Cuba has been an underlying force fueling Venezuela’s descent into crisis. Treasury is taking action against vessels and entities transporting oil, providing a lifeline to keep the illegitimate Maduro regime afloat.

He added, “Cuba continues to profit from, and prop up, the illegitimate Maduro regime through oil-for-repression schemes as they attempt to keep Maduro in power. The US remains committed to a transition to democracy in Venezuela and to holding the Cuban regime accountable for its direct involvement in Venezuela’s demise.”

US Security Advisor John Bolton warned that the sanctions were only 'a first step."

In a tweet, Bolton stated, "The Department of the Treasury has sanctioned companies and vessels facilitating illegal oil transfers from the Maduro regime to Cuba. This is only a first step."

Bolton urged Maduro to "stand out of the way of a democratic transition in Venezuela."

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