Venezuelan forces detain Guaido's chief of staff

US imposes new sanctions on Venezuela

The treasury said regime insiders have transformed those institutions into vehicles to move funds overseas in an effort to prop up Maduro.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo demanded via Twitter Roberto Marrero's "immediate release", warning that the US government will hold accountable those involved. It also imposed sanctions on state-owned Venezuelan commercial banks, including Banco de Venezuela and Banco Bicentenario.

The Lima Group, an association of about a dozen Latin American countries and Canada, also condemned Marrero's detention. They described it as a kidnapping.

"The global community is closely watching Maduro's actions and will respond accordingly to any that threaten the safety of the opposition and Interim President Juan Guaidó", said Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas. Michael McCaul, R-Texas.

President Donald Trump, right, meets with Caribbean leaders at Mar-A Lago, Friday, March 22, 2019, in Palm Beach, Fla.

Mr Marrero, 49, is a key aide of Juan Guaidó, recognised by most western nations as the leader of Venezuela.

Holness wrote on his social media page that the first meeting with Trump "was promising as we anticipate further discussions on Energy, Trade, Security and issues to do with peace and stability within the region".

He promised them that a high-level delegation from the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, the US development lender, would visit their nations in the next 90 days, the White House said.

Israeli rabbi, injured in Palestinian attack, dies
People attend the funeral of 47-year-old Rabbi Achiad Ettinger in the settlement of Eli in West Bank, on March 18, 2019. Since 2015, Palestinians have killed over 50 Israelis in stabbings, shootings and car-ramming attacks in the West Bank.

The State Department said on the same day that "the USA government today determined that persons operating in Venezuela's financial sector could be subject to sanctions". "Unless Maduro's usurpation ends, he and his cronies will be strangled financially". "The window is closing".

"Either he doesn't dare to jail me, or he's not in charge", Guaido, the leader of the opposition-controlled National Assembly, said during an appearance at a school.

The crisis has put some Caribbean nations in a tough spot.

China is the main creditor of Venezuela, granting more than $60 billion over the past decade to Maduro's cash-strapped government, which pays back in oil. They purchased the oil under the PetroCaribe arrangement, which gave them low-interest credit terms, but have left them indebted to Caracas.

With relations between Washington and Beijing marred by an acrimonious trade dispute, US officials have expressed concern in recent months at China's growing influence in Latin America - a region Washington has long regarded as its backyard.

One source, speaking on condition of anonymity, on Thursday told reporters that China had proposed that no representative from either Maduro's or Guaido's camps attend the meeting to "depoliticize" the gathering.

It's unclear how well Trump's message will be received.

The step is expected to worsen already dire economic conditions ravaging Venezuela, a once-wealthy South American nation that has become impoverished under Maduro.

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