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Venezuela's Guaido says Maduro is in its final phase



LECHERIEN, Venezuela (Reuters) – The administration of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has reached its final stage, and there will soon be a change in the government, says opposition leader Juan Guaido, adding that his allies have spoken to senior military members that change pages.

In an interview with Reuters on Friday, Guaido said Maduro had lost the ability to "finance political extortion" to preserve power thanks to the pressure of foreign governments who have recognized him as the legitimate leader of South America in the midst of a hyperinflationary economic collapse.

"They are isolated, only they fall apart every day," said Guaido, the president of the opposition-led National Assembly, in Lecheria, a city in the northeastern Anzoategui state, where he held several gatherings of supporters over the weekend.

"The citizens do not like them, they reject those they hate them, for that is what they have received from them: hate."

Venezuela fell into a deep political crisis in January when Guaido invoked the constitution to assume a temporary presidency, arguing for Maduro's re-election in May 201

8 was illegal. He has been recognized by most Western countries, including the United States, as Venezuela's legitimate leader.

Maduro, a socialist, says Guaido is a puppet in the United States and is trying to make a coup against him to destroy the control of OPEC nation's oil reserves, the largest in the world. He retains control of state functions and the loyalty of the military top brass.

But Guaido said the team is slipping thanks partly to pressure from abroad. The US sanctioned the state oil company PDVSA in January and on Friday sanctioned several state-owned banks in Venezuela. Guaido has also taken control of US refineries Citgo, a PDVSA subsidiary and the country's main overseas asset.

"The diplomatic pressure has worked, the economic pressure and pressure on assets has worked," Guaido said.

The Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido, whom many nations have recognized as the country's legitimate preliminary ruler, constitutes a photograph after an interview with Reuters in Caracas, Venezuela on March 22, 2019. REUTERS / Carlos Jasso

WHAT IS MISSING?

Shortly after taking the temporary presidency, Guaido offered amnesty to members of the military who took their side. While hundreds have left, with many refugees to neighbor Colombia, top brass has been standing by Maduro side.

Guaido estimated that between 80-85 percent of military members were "convinced of the need for a change in Venezuela" and that his team met with senior members.

"What is missing? That the management, the high command of the armed forces, takes the side of the constitution," he said.

The 35-year-old engineer, who had a low profile before taking over the presidency of the National Assembly this year, said he was prepared for more members of his team to be detained after his chief of staff Roberto Marrero was arrested on Thursday under accusations of terrorism.

The Venezuelan Supreme Court has initiated an investigation of Guaido on the grounds that he had helped foreign countries interfere in internal affairs. During a prolonged blackout this month, the main lawyer has requested that he be probed for alleged involvement in "sabotage" of the country's electrical system.

Guaido said Maduro's goal was "to create fear".

"The risk of participating in Venezuela's policy is your life, your freedom, and the persecution of those closest to you," Guaido said.

Slideshow (6 Images)

He added that his team is evaluating "all possibilities" to possibly make a payment of about $ 72 million on PDVSA bonds that are already in April. The bonds have shares in Citgo as collateral, and non-payment can give creditors the opportunity to utilize part of the company.

Guaido said his team has also been in contact with companies whose Venezuelan assets were expropriated by late former president Hugo Chavez, Maduro's mentor and predecessor, to return to the country if Maduro were to leave the power.

Reporting by Diego Ore; Writing by Luc Cohen; Editing Robert Birsel

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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