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VENEZUELAN President Nicolas Maduro condemned a terrorist attack on a telecommunications company as the US ratcheted up the pressure imposing new sanctions in the latest bid to force him from office.
A warehouse belonging to the National Telephone Company of Venezuela (Cantv) and its affiliate Movilnet in the northern state of Carabobo was struck on Saturday night causing a fire and damage to strategic telecommunications equipment.
Vice President Delcy Rodriguez warned on Sunday of an increase in “violent waves of extremism pushed by the United States-backed opposition.”
“Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has ordered the immediate repair of this indispensable material and the capture of those responsible,” she said.
Minister of Popular Power for Science and Technology Gabriela Jimenez condemned the “terrorist attack against the telecommunications services of Venezuela.”
“Attacking Cantv and Movilnet is a war operation against our people,” she said.
Venezuela suffered a number of coup attempts last year led by hapless opposition stooge Juan Guaido, who declared himself the country’s interim president shortly after Mr Maduro’s inauguration.
Massive blackouts hit the country between March and July in what was described as a series of “terrorist attacks” on Venezuela’s power grid.
But Mr Guaido failed to win over either the people or the military with both remaining loyal to the Bolivarian government.
Earlier this month he was voted out of his role of president of the National Assembly with opposition groups branding him “a dream that turned into a nightmare.”
But he has the continued support of Washington and attended the US President’s annual State of the Nation address last week.
Early yesterday the US slapped new sanctions on Venezuelan airline Convisa in a bid to press Mr Maduro to step down. It will become a criminal activity to do business with the company under the latest ban.
“This action increases pressure on Maduro to negotiate seriously and open a path out of the crisis through a transitional government that will lead to free and fair presidential elections,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement.
“We call on the international community to step up pressure on Maduro and further isolate him and his corrupt associates and other malign entities,” he said.
US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin insisted that Mr Maduro has used the airline “to shuttle corrupt regime officials around the world to fuel support for its anti-democratic efforts.”
But speaking in Caracas Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov warned that US sanctions were“illegal” blaming them for the “crisis in the Venezuelan economy.”
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