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Brazil calls allies to ‘liberate’ Venezuela

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Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro speaking to a soldier during a ceremony to mark the 200th anniversary of the historic Battle of Angostura at the Guicaipuro Fort in Miranda, Venezuela, on February 10. Xinhua

PACARAIMA, Brazil (Reuters) – International condemnation of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro grew on Sunday after he deployed troops to block foreign aid convoys, with Brazil branding it criminal and urging allies to join a “liberation effort” of the South American nation.

Troops loyal to Mr Maduro violently drove back aid convoys seeking to enter Venezuela on Saturday, leaving dozens wounded in clashes with security forces and at least two protesters dead near the Brazilian border.

Juan Guaido, recognised by most Western nations as Venezuela’s legitimate leader, urged foreign powers to consider “all options” in ousting Mr Maduro, ahead of a meeting of regional governments in Bogota.

“The use of force against the Venezuelan people, who are eager to receive international humanitarian aid, is a criminal act committed by the Maduro regime,” Brazil’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

Brazil, a diplomatic heavyweight in Latin America which has the region’s largest economy, was for years a vocal ally of Venezuela while it was ruled by the leftist Workers Party.

It turned sharply against Mr Maduro this year when far-right President Jair Bolsonaro took office.

US Vice President Mike Pence is scheduled to join a meeting of the Lima Group of Latin American nations, to discuss new ways to pressure Mr Maduro.

“There’s more sanctions to be had. There’s more humanitarian assistance I think that we can provide,” Mr Pompeo told CNN. “The Venezuelan people will ultimately… hold accountable those who have done so much harm to the fundamental basic rights.”

China and Russia, which both have major energy sector investments in Venezuela, have supported Mr Maduro’s government and condemned US sanctions.

Venezuela’s Information Ministry did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

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