Venezuela braces for more protests as Maduro clamps down

Edgar Zambrano, deputy speaker of the opposition-majority National Assembly, is being held in preventive detention for "the flagrant commission of the crimes of treason, conspiracy and civil rebellion", the Supreme Court said in a statement announcing the verdict of a lower court.

"I warn Venezuela and the worldwide community about the intention of the regime to disintegrate the national Parliament, through attacks carried out by the illegitimate Supreme Court of Justice and the National Constituent Assembly". Yet the country continues its economic downward spiral.

But the noticeably diminished crowds reflected a growing fear and demoralization that has permeated Guaido's ranks of supporters after he led a failed military uprising on April 30. In previous months, thousands of demonstrators heeded his calls to protest.

Attorney General Tarek William Saab says the two days of clashes that followed left six people dead.

On Friday, Maduro accused his sacked intelligence chief of being a CIA "mole" and the architect of the failed military uprising. While Washington is supporting the opposition and threatening to use "any options" to oust Maduro and restore democracy in the country - eventually including military intervention - Russian Federation backs Maduro's regime emphasizing the respect of the principles of sovereignty and non-interference in internal affairs. Despite rioting in border towns, a blockade by Venezuela's Armed Forces endured.

One of the other charged lawmakers, Luis Florido, announced in a video on Friday that he had fled to neighboring Colombia, "sheltered from a regime that is willing to imprison deputies", he said.

Three others - Richard Blanco, Mariela Magallanes and Americo De Grazia - have sought refuge in the residences of the Argentine and Italian ambassadors in Caracas.

The United States has slapped sanctions on state oil company PDVSA and several top figures in Maduro's government in a bid to pressure Maduro to step aside so Guaido can take office and call new elections.

The uptick in regime repression "may be a precursor" to targeting Guaido himself, said Latin American analyst Risa Grais-Targow of Eurasia Group. But U.S. officials have since been more cautious in their predictions of Maduro's swift exit, while reassessing what one official described as the likelihood of a diplomatic "long haul". He also complained about Bolton's attempt to box him "into a corner" and go "beyond where he felt comfortable" on Venezuela policy, another official familiar with US Venezuela policy said.


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