US refiner Citgo emerges as key to Venezuela's power battle

Refugees from Venezuela may top 5 mil. this year

Soaring hyperinflation has forced millions of Venezuelans to flee or go hungry as they struggle to find or afford basic goods and medicine.

"I want to see how many military officers are willing to commit crimes against humanity by not allowing the lives of the most vulnerable to be saved, 250,000 to 300,000 are at risk of dying if they do not receive immediate attention", Guaido said during a gathering of university students.

In an ironic twist, a Venezuelan navy ship laden with equipment sent by Maduro's government to help Cuba rebuild after a tornado hit Havana last month arrived in the city's port on Friday, Cuban state media reported.

Blaming Maduro for bringing the dire social and economic crisis upon the sanctions-strangled Venezuela, Guaido has been taking advantage of the situation to push for regime change and pleading with his worldwide support base to urgently send humanitarian aid.

The United States is holding direct communications with members of Venezuela's military urging them to abandon President Nicolas Maduro and is also preparing new sanctions aimed at increasing pressure on him, a senior White House official said.

The dire situation has fueled a political crisis that has peaked over the last month with opposition leader Juan Guaido invoking a constitutional provision to declare himself the legitimate president. Dozens of political parties that make up Venezuela's opposition have failed to mount a viable political challenge.

However, fearing a possible conspiracy created to further destabilize the country, Maduro has so far refused to allow in trucks with foreign aid.

Hector Vazquez Muniz, chief financial officer of Banco San Juan Internacional, said in a statement to the AP that the bank is complying with the USA sanctions and denied wrongdoing. He's managed to rally masses of Venezuelans into the streets to show their support, and he's won backing from almost 50 countries worldwide, including the United States.

On Monday, Canada hosted a meeting of the Lima Group regional bloc to discuss how the global community can further help the people of Venezuela, including through immediate humanitarian assistance.

These supplies include food, hygiene kits, blankets, water containers, kitchen sets, water bladders, and nutritional supplements.

The boxes of emergency aid came from the U.S. Agency for International Development, and are marked with USAID labels.

It is still unclear how the aid will get through the Colombian-Venezuelan border. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called for dialogue to resolve the crisis.

Guaido, 35, is trying to bring in aid from the U.S. but the supplies are stuck in warehouses in Colombia because the Venezuelan military has blocked their entry.

"While I cannot name names because visa information is protected, I can state that we will continue to take action against those destroying Venezuela's democratic institutions", he said.

He claims that as head of the opposition-led National Assembly he is Venezuela's rightful leader because Maduro's re-election previous year was a sham.

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