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World

U.S. Backs Efforts To Remove Maduro

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Competing stories out of Venezuela - the president, Nicolas Maduro, insists he still has control of the country.

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PRESIDENT NICOLAS MADURO: (Speaking Spanish).

MARTIN: That's Maduro during a TV address last night. He is defiant, and he claims the military is still loyal to him. The opposition leader, Juan Guaido, says support for Maduro is fracturing. And he's urging mass protest today. Guaido has international support, including that of the Trump administration. We're going to hear more about what's needed on the diplomatic front in just a moment. But first, here's NPR's Michele Kelemen.

MICHELE KELEMEN, BYLINE: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo painted a dramatic picture of the situation in Venezuela, saying there was a plane on the tarmac waiting to whisk Maduro out of the country until Russia intervened. Speaking on CNN, Pompeo had a message for the embattled Venezuelan leader - fire up the plane.

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MIKE POMPEO: There's no way that Maduro can stay in the country in a nation that he has so decimated.

KELEMEN: The U.S. is backing National Assembly leader Juan Guaido's attempts to take charge. U.S. Special Representative Elliott Abrams says the U.S. was expecting three top Venezuelan officials to join that effort, including the defense minister, the presidential guard commander and the head of Venezuela's Supreme Court.

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ELLIOTT ABRAMS: They negotiated for a long time about the means of restoring democracy. But it seems that today, they're not going forward with the agreements they made.

KELEMEN: National security adviser John Bolton said the three had agreed that Maduro has to go. Venezuela's ambassador to the U.N., Samuel Moncada, called that propaganda and accused the U.S. of acting like gangsters imposing sanctions on Venezuelan officials, offering to lift them only if they support Guaido.

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SAMUEL MONCADA: They treat Venezuelans - officers - as they treat mafiosi here in New York.

KELEMEN: He says his government has defeated this attempt to, in his words, provoke confusion and chaos in Venezuela. U.S. officials, though, say they will continue to push for what they hope will be a peaceful transition.

Michele Kelemen, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.