US Senator issues warning to Maduro

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Senator Marco Rubio questions witnesses before the Senate Intelligence Committee hearing about "worldwide threats" on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., January 29, 2019. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

CUCUTA, Colombia (Reuters) – US Senator Marco Rubio, visiting the Colombia-Venezuela border on Sunday, warned Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro of severe consequences if he takes action against the country’s opposition leader and self-declared president or US citizens.

In a televised interview, Mr Rubio declined to say if he would support US military action against Venezuela, which is mired in a political and economic crisis.

But the Republican senator said he was confident that US President Donald Trump’s administration would not stand by if the Venezuelan government harmed or imprisoned opposition leader Juan Guaido, who declared himself interim president last month.

“There are certain lines and Mr Maduro knows what they are,” Mr Rubio, a senator from Florida seen as an influential voice on Venezuela policy in Washington, told CNN. “The consequences will be severe and they will be swift.”

Mr Rubio also warned Mr Maduro against harming US personnel working in the country and said the United States would also respond if aide workers were targeted.

The senator was part of a US delegation visiting the Colombian border city of Cucuta, where humanitarian aid is being stockpiled for planned delivery to Venezuela.

While Mr Maduro is refusing to allow in the food, medicine and other supplies, Mr Guaido has vowed to move hundreds of tonnes of the aid into the country on Saturday.

Most Western countries and many of Venezuela’s neighbours have recognised Guaido as the legitimate head of state after Maduro won a second term in an election last year that critics denounced as a sham. Maduro retains the backing of Russia and China and control of Venezuelan state institutions including the military.

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