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Thousands of Venezuelans took to the streets across the nation on Wednesday to demand an end to Nicolás Maduro’s presidency.
The two-hour walkout took place in more than 5,000 places, according to opposition leader, Juan Guaidó, who made a surprise appearance before a cheering crowd at the Central University of Venezuela in Caracas, the capital.
“We are staying in the streets,” Guaidó, 35, told students. “Not just because of how bad things are, but also for the future.”
The walkout came a week after Guaidó, the leader of the National Assembly, announced he had assumed presidential powers under the constitution and promised to hold fresh elections during a massive rally.
Guaidó was swiftly recognized as the rightful president by the Trump administration and two dozen other countries. Russia, China and Cuba, meanwhile, remain staunch supporters of Maduro.
President Donald Trump spoke to Guaidó by phone Wednesday morning and reaffirmed support for his “fight to regain democracy.” They agreed to maintain regular communication.
Venezuela's armed forces is proving to be a deciding factor in the country's future, according to analysts.
Maduro told Moscow’s RIA news agency on Wednesday that he is open to talks with the opposition, "so that we could talk for the sake of Venezuela’s peace and its future."
Previous rounds of dialogue between the government and the opposition have failed. Opponents are suspicious that Maduro could use talks to calm protesters and buy time.
In the interview, Maduro also said Trump had ordered neighboring Colombia to kill him.
Guaidó: 'Not losing sleep' over recent actions by Maduro
Venezuela’s Supreme Court on Tuesday banned Guaidó from leaving the country and froze his financial assets hours after the country's chief prosecutor, Tarek William Saab, announced that he was opening a criminal investigation into Guaidó’s anti-government activities. John Bolton, the U.S. National security adviser, warned on Twitter that "there will be serious consequences for those who attempt to subvert democracy and harm Guaidó.”
During Wednesday's walkout, Guaidó said he is not losing any sleep over the Supreme Court order. He also said his goal is for those fleeing the South American country’s crisis to return home and reclaim their nation.
The moves against Guaidó were in retaliation for oil sanctions the U.S. slapped on Venezuela’s state-owned oil company, PDVSA, on Monday. They are likely to have a devastating effect on the country’s already crumpled economy.
The Trump administration announced Tuesday it was giving Guaidó control of Venezuela’s U.S. bank accounts.
The State Department raised its travel advisory for Venezuela to the highest level, warning Americans not to travel there.
Another round of mass protests are planned for Saturday in different cities around the world.