Venezuela's Guaido lays out broad vision for the country

Defiant Nicolas Maduro gestures during a meeting with soldiers in Caracas yesterday

Defiant Nicolas Maduro gestures during a meeting with soldiers in Caracas yesterday

Russian Federation still recognizes Nicolas Maduro instead of opposition leader Juan Guaido as the Venezuelan president and hopes bilateral cooperation between the two countries will continue, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Friday.

"The government also urges the Venezuelan authorities to respect the rule of law, human rights and basic freedoms, of which the freedom of the press is a central element".

The opposition's priority is to end Maduro's grip on power and usher in a transition by holding democratic elections, Guaido said in the letter to Uruguayan President Tabare Vazquez and Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador.

Gen. Francisco Yanez is the first high ranking officer to leave Maduro's government since January 23, when National Assembly President Juan Guaido declared himself the country's legitimate leader.

"In a few weeks they will have to choose if they let much-needed aid into the country, or if they side with Nicolas Maduro", said Guaido, who recently offered an amnesty to members of the military in another effort to encourage them to defect from the Maduro administration.

"The armed forces also have a role in the reconstruction of the country", he said.

A former union leader who succeeded his charismatic mentor, the late President Hugo Chavez, Maduro has overseen a shrinking economy and the migration of more than 3 million Venezuelans fleeing food and drug shortages and hyperinflation.

Several individual European governments, including Spain, Germany and the United Kingdom, have made clear their intention to recognise Guaido. The military's top leadership is backing Maduro, though analysts warn that rank-and-file troops frustrated by their country's economic and humanitarian crisis may not share their unwavering loyalty.

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"I agree that the legislative power of the country be re-legitimized and that we hold free elections with guarantees, and the people choose a new National Assembly", Maduro said at a pro-government demonstration in Caracas.

"We are not just taking aid from the United States", Guaido said.

The U.S. government wants Venezuela oil company PDVSA's U.S. subsidiary, Citgo, to keep operational despite tough new sanctions it imposed earlier this week.

Turkey, Russia and China opposed the USA call to support Guaido and condemned any worldwide interference in Venezuela's internal affairs.

Maduro has described the protests as part of a US -led coup attempt and called on his supporters to organize their own march on Saturday in defense of his Bolivarian Revolution.

The EU was nervous at the precedent of a self-declaration and has been reluctant to follow the US and most Latin American nations with immediate recognition of Guaido.

Defying the European Parliament's decision to recognize Venezuela's opposition leader Juan Guaido as the de facto head of state, Italy's deputy foreign minister warned that a Libya-style regime change must be avoided.

"We will never lend ourselves to false dialogues in any place", he said, adding that protests will continue throughout the country.

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