Venezuela's Supreme Court bans self-declared president from leaving the country

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Venezuelan opposition leader and self-proclaimed interim president Juan Guaido takes part in a protest against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro's government in Caracas, Venezuela January 30, 2019.

For much of the past two years, following a deadly crackdown on the 2017 protests and the failure of negotiations ahead of last May's boycotted presidential election, the coalition of opposition parties has been badly divided over strategy and other differences as millions of desperate Venezuelans fled the country's hyperinflation and widespread food shortages.

President Donald Trump and "this group of extremists" have their eyes on Venezuela's vast oil reserves, said Mr Maduro, warning that the USA is about to repeat a bloody chapter in its history.

It came just hours before a midday strike announced by opposition leader Guaido.

It says more than 40 people are believed to have been killed.

Maduro, 56, says Guaido is staging a USA -directed coup against him.

"I don't underestimate the threat of persecution at the moment, but here we are", he said.

In an interview with the German daily Bild, he called on European Union countries to impose more sanctions on Maduro's government. Trump has imposed sanctions that could starve Venezuela of billions of dollars in oil revenue.

"What I asked President Putin is to maintain constant contact, provide support at the diplomatic and political levels at the United Nations and defend the truth of Venezuela internationally", he said.

Embattled Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro warned the USA that it risks a Vietnam War-style quagmire if it launches a military offensive against his country - while at the same time conceding that he's willing to begin negotiations with opposition leaders.

"It would be very good to conduct parliamentary elections at an earlier stage".

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In that context, the arrival in Caracas of a Boeing 777 plane from Moscow on Monday led to speculation Maduro's government was shipping more gold reserves out of the country, following shipments of $900 million of gold to Turkey a year ago.

The court is stacked with Maduro loyalists.

Maduro created a rival legislature - the Constituent Assembly - made up exclusively of his supporters.

Elections would merely give Maduro the chance to regain control of the National Assembly.

"The people of Venezuela have courageously spoken out against Maduro and his regime and demanded freedom and the rule of law", Mr Trump said in his statement.

The opposition-controlled legislature, meanwhile, named "diplomatic representatives" to a dozen countries that, like the U.S., have recognized Guaido as the interim president.

Tuesday's announcement marked the first significant move by the government of president Nicolás Maduro to see off the challenge posed by Guiadó who last week declared himself Venezuela's rightful interim president.

He accused the "oligarchy" in neighboring Colombia of being behind an attempt by military deserters to drive a wedge between him and the armed forces - which are key to his hold on power.

He knows, though, that he must convince the military to switch sides in order to dislodge Maduro, a former bus driver.

Venezuela's military attache to Washington deserted the president on Saturday. Abrams said action against Guaido would be "foolish".

Maduro has said such assistance would be the first step toward a United States military intervention. "They called for dialogue". He has previously accused the USA of trying to orchestrate a coup.

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