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    All Venezuelan Diplomats Have Returned From US to Caracas - Maduro

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    Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro on Monday welcomed home diplomats recalled from the United States after the two countries scaled back their diplomatic missions.

    The event was broadcast on Venezuela's national television and was followed by a speech from Maduro.

    "I want to welcome diplomats from the [Venezuelan] embassy in the United States, who arrived in Caracas", Maduro said at a meeting with the diplomats.

    Maduro noted that employees of Venezuelan consulates in US cities are also among those who have returned. Maduro also said that seven US diplomats were allowed to stay in Venezuela for talks on the creation of "offices of mutual interests".

    "I have approved visas, all diplomatic immunity and diplomatic privileges for a group of seven US diplomats, who are here […] I want to have an office here in Venezuela with which I could talk", Maduro said at a meeting with Venezuelan diplomats.

    READ MORE: Caracas Accuses Lima Group of Supporting Corruption, Dubs 'The Lima Cartel'

    Last week, Maduro cut off diplomatic ties with the United States after Washington’s decision to recognize opposition leader Juan Guaido as the Venezuelan interim president. Maduro also demanded that US diplomats leave Venezuela within 72 hours, but US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo pointed out that Maduro lacked legal authority to declare US diplomats personae non gratae.

    The Venezuelan Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Sunday that Washington and Caracas would hold talks within 30 days on creation of "offices of mutual interests", and during this period the diplomas from the US and the Venezuelan embassies will be allowed not to leave the countries where they are working.

    READ MORE: UK Working Behind the Scenes to Unite EU Against Venezuela's Maduro – Report

    On 22 January, the opposition-run National Assembly adopted a statement declaring that Maduro had usurped power. Guaido proclaimed himself the country's interim president at a mass rally in the Venezuelan capital of Caracas the following day.

    Some countries, including Brazil, Canada and the United States, immediately recognized Guaido's interim presidency. The United States and the other Lima Group countries initially opposed Maduro's re-election as president last year, expressing their doubts over the legitimacy and fairness of the vote.

    Organization of American States (OAS) Secretary-General Luis Almagro said last week he has also recognized Juan Guaido as the country’s interim president.

    In addition, the United Kingdom, Germany, France and Spain declared on Saturday their intention to recognize the head of opposition-controlled National Assembly of Venezuela, Juan Guaido, as the country’s interim president if Caracas does not announce snap presidential election within eight days.

    READ MORE: South African Envoy to UN Calls on EU to Rethink 8-Day Ultimatum to Venezuela

    In turn, Russia, Cuba, China, Turkey and Iran have given Maduro's government full support. Maduro himself called Venezuela "the victim of a US conspiracy", referring to US Vice President Mike Pence promising Guaidó "full American support" the day before he declared himself Venezuela's new leader. Maduro also stressed that Venezuela has held numerous recent elections and urged the European countries to withdraw their demand.

    US National Security Adviser John Bolton said Monday during a White House press briefing that Washington was urging the armed forces of Venezuela to support the peaceful transition of power in the country.

    "We also today call on Venezuelan military and security forces to accept the peaceful, democratic and constitutional transfer of power," Bolton said on Monday. "To a certain extent, this has already begun. We have seen Venezuelan officials and military personnel heeding this call. The Venezuelan defense attache here in Washington recognized President Guaido a few days ago, and just within the past hours, the first consular of Venezuela's consulate in Miami, Scarlet Salazar, has also declared for interim President Guaido. I call on responsible nations to recognize interim President Guaido immediately".

    Bolton pointed out that the United States will hold Venezuelan security forces responsible for the safety of all US diplomatic personnel, as well as of the National Assembly and Guaido.

    READ MORE: US Imposes Sanctions Against Venezuela's PDVSA — White House

    "Any violence against these groups will signify a grave assault on a rule of law and will be met with a significant response", he stated.

    On Saturday, Col. Jose Luis Silva, a military attache at the Venezuelan embassy in Washington, told the US Spanish-language daily newspaper El Nuevo Herald that he did not recognize Maduro as the Venezuelan president. Silva also called on the global community to recognize Guaido as the "true president of Venezuela."

    The Venezuelan Defense Ministry said on Sunday that Silva has committed treason by recognizing Guaido as the country’s interim president.

    Venezuelan troops participated in a march on Monday to demonstrate their resolve amid continued US pressure on the Latin American country, the Venezuelan Defense Ministry said in a statement.

    In turn, Maduro took to Twitter on Monday to voice his support for the armed forces amid attempts by the opposition to woo them.

    "Soldiers of our glorious Armed Forces, your training and operational readiness is vital for defending the sacred homeland … Count on my absolute support!" Maduro wrote. The Venezuelan military is reportedly preparing for war games in two weeks that will include a simulated invasion by a foreign state.

    READ MORE: How US-Venezuela Escalation Unfolded From Sanctions to Backing Anti-Maduro Coup

    Meanwhile, a representative of the US State Department told Sputnik that Washington had no plans to close its embassy in Venezuela and would continue evaluating the situation "on the ground".

    Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov said last week that a possible foreign military intervention in Venezuela would be a huge blow to the international system and result in bloodshed in the Latin American country. He also warned the United States and other countries against military interference in the Venezuelan affairs.

    Similarly, Russian Ambassador to the United Nations Vassily Nebenzia said Saturday after a UNSC meeting that the use of force in Venezuela must be avoided at any cost.

    "The US announced that all options are on the table… if it evolves into something more military than it will be even more regrettable… We think that it should be avoided at any cost. We never discussed any military… confrontation and we want to avoid that scenario at any cost", Nebenzia said.

    READ MORE: US Tries to Spark Civil War Between Various Factions in Venezuela — Ex-Diplomat

    As the diplomatic crisis heats up, the violence on the ground is escalating. The number of people killed during mass protests in Venezuela amid the ongoing political crisis has increased to 35, the Venezuelan Observatory of Social Conflict (OVCS) said on Monday.

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    Political Crisis in Venezuela (539)

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