Anti-government protesters clash with security forces in Caracas.
Venezuelans heeded opposition leader Juan Guaido's call to take to the streets on Wednesday in a bid to force President Nicolas Maduro from power, but there was little concrete sign of change in a crisis that increasingly looks like a political stalemate.
Guaido had called for the "largest march" in Venezuela's history and said on Twitter that "millions of Venezuelans" were in the streets in "this final phase" of his move to oust Maduro.
But by late afternoon, many of the protesters in the capital Caracas had drifted home. National Guards fired tear gas at a hardcore of demonstrators who remained, and one injured demonstrator was carried by others to a first aid truck, Reuters video showed.
Rights organisations said a young woman died in surgery after being shot in the head during a protest in Caracas. Guaido confirmed via Twitter that a woman died after being shot.The standoff in the South American country increased tensions between the United States and Russia, which accused each other of interference in the OPEC-member nation's affairs.
Despite Guaido's calls for the military to support him, the armed forces leadership has so far remained loyal to Maduro, who has been in power since his mentor, the late President Hugo Chavez, died in 2013.
"If the regime thought we had reached maximum pressure, they cannot even imagine," Guaido told thousands of cheering supporters. "We have to remain in the streets."
It was unclear what more Guaido can do at this point. The Venezuelan opposition has often staged huge street protests against Maduro but failed to dislodge him despite a deep economic recession and hyperinflation.
Demonstrators said they were prepared for the process of ousting Maduro to last a long time.
"If the regime thought we had reached maximum pressure, they cannot even imagine. We have to remain in the streets.
"We need to keep going," said Laila Amezquita, a 52-year-old nurse from Caracas' downtown Candelaria district. "In three months, Guaido's been able to do what they have not done in 20 years, and one has to be patient."
Others are frustrated that nothing has changed more than three months after Guaido, head of the opposition-run National Assembly, invoked the constitution to assume an interim presidency, arguing that Maduro's 2018 re-election was illegitimate.
Guaido is recognized as Venezuela's legitimate head of state by the United States, the European Union and others, while Maduro is backed by countries including Russia, China and Cuba.
Those fault lines are increasingly putting Venezuela at the heart of global geopolitical tensions.
US President Donald Trump's administration has imposed sanctions on the Maduro government and refused to rule out military intervention, although it says it prefers a peaceful transition."Military action is possible. If that's what's required, that's what the United States will do," US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told Fox Business Network.
The Pentagon appeared to downplay any active preparations to directly intervene in Venezuela, but acknowledged detailed contingency planning.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told Pompeo on Wednesday that further "aggressive steps" in Venezuela would have grave consequences, Russia's Foreign Ministry said.
In turn, the United States has accused Moscow of interfering in Venezuela, an ally of Russia since the time of Chavez. Pompeo said Maduro had been expected to flee the country on Tuesday but Russia convinced him to stay, which the Kremlin has denied.
White House national security adviser John Bolton, a foreign policy hawk, said Moscow's involvement was not welcome.
"This is our hemisphere," he told reporters outside the White House. "It's not where the Russians ought to be interfering. This is a mistake on their part. It's not going to lead to an improvement of relations."
China called for a political settlement via dialogue.
"We hope parties in Venezuela will proceed from the interests of the country and people, avoid bloody conflicts and restore the country's stable development momentum as soon as possible," the foreign ministry said in a statement on Thursday.
Test for Guaido
Maduro retains control of state institutions and the loyalty of the armed forces, frustrating Guaido's bid to assume the day-to-day functions of government, which he says would be a prelude to calling new elections.
Seeking to appeal to Maduro's traditional base among the working class, Guaido said on Wednesday he would consider a proposal from public workers to call for a series of stoppages leading up to a general strike.
“Guaido is a puppet of the United States seeking to orchestrate a coup. Need for ‘big changes within the Bolivarian revolution’.
Carlos Alberto, a 70-year-old small-business owner, draped in a Venezuelan flag at the Caracas protest, said: "We are tired of this regime, that has brutally impoverished us. My children and almost all my family have already left Venezuela. ... We know that if it's not today, it will be tomorrow, because this has to end."
Venezuelan living standards have declined even further in the first several months of the year, with blackouts and water shortages adding to hyperinflation and chronic shortages of food and medicine that have prompted millions to emigrate.
Triple the usual daily number of Venezuelans fled across the border to Brazil on Tuesday, Brazilian government data showed.
Supporters of President Nicolas Maduro hold a coffin during a rally in Caracas. Juan Barreto/AFP
Maduro, who says Guaido is a puppet of the United States seeking to orchestrate a coup, also called a march on Wednesday.
In a speech to supporters gathered near the Miraflores presidential palace, Maduro said he recognised the need for "big changes within the Bolivarian revolution." He did not give details.
Traveling to the pro-Maduro rally, educator Mercedes Martinez called Guaido a "lapdog" and said: "The empire wants to smother us, cut off our head and colonize us. ... The people of Venezuela are defending Venezuela."
Tuesday evening, Maduro declared victory over the uprising — congratulating the armed forces for having "defeated this small group that intended to spread violence through putschist skirmishes."
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Wednesday the administration of President Donald Trump was prepared to take military action to stem the crisis in Venezuela.
Millions of Cubans took to the streets on Wednesday in protest over new sanctions imposed on the Caribbean island by the Trump administration and US efforts to topple the government of socialist ally Venezuela.
Sheikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, commended the role played by Egypt in ensuring regional stability, noting that the current circumstances the region is passing through entail “cementing pan-Arab solidarity and cooperation to confront the besetting challenges.” The UAE’s top diplomat’s remarks came during his meeting on Sunday with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El Sisi who reaffirmed his country’s support for the UAE during the critical stage the region is experiencing.
Mohamed was left behind on a bus at one of the Quran memorisation centers in Dubai on Saturday.
Sheikha Bodour Bint Sultan Al Qasimi, Vice President of the International Publishers Association, IPA, Founder and CEO of Kalimat Group, said that IPA is committed to responding to the genuine needs of the African publishing industry, and help them gain the required momentum in the wider context of original content development and distribution.
The Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC) will launch the Emirates Mars Mission (EMM) Science Week during the first week of July, at the Emirates Towers Youth Hub. Science Week is an EMM initiative, the first Arab space exploration mission to an outer planet.