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Venezuela's power struggle continues with U.S., Russia, China pulling from different sides

Protests against Maduro continue Thursday night in parts of Caracas

CARACAS – Venezuelan authorities are enforcing a curfew Thursday night after riots, shootings and looting followed peaceful marches around the country. Hundreds were arrested and at least a dozen are dead amid an ongoing power struggle with international repercussions. 

Hospitals were still dealing with the injured who included reporters. Small groups of protesters were  using spoons and pots and pans to continue protesting by making noise from their homes and in their neighborhoods late Thursday. 

Most businesses near downtown Caracas closed Wednesday and some owners returned Thursday to a mess. Martiza Atencio, the manager of Papa John's restaurant in Caracas, said she estimated there were $40,000 in damage after looters broke windows and took even the light bulbs. 

"This is really unfortunate because these franchises are struggling to hang on here," Atencio said in Spanish. 

The political crisis worsened this week as protesters say they are tired of the staggering inflation, shortages of food and medications and divided families because of the exodus. Nicolas Maduro's socialist administration still controls media and the state's oil company. 

"They believe they have a colonial hold in Venezuela, where they decide what they want to do," Maduro said during a speech. "You must fulfill my order from the government of Venezuela."

Nicolas Maduro waves the Venezuelan flag at the Miraflores Palace Jan. 23 in Caracas, Venezuela. From left, Hector Rodriguez, the governor of Miranda, Diosdado Cabello, the president of Maduro's constitutional assemly, First Lady Cilia Flores, Major Erika Farias and Tareck El Aissami, the economic vice president, are standing with Maduro during a rally. Photo by Edilzon Gamez/Getty Images

With the support of China and Russia, Maduro is holding on to power and is making sure Venezuelans know that he still has the support of the high-ranking members of the military. The U.S. isn't giving up and President Donald Trump is still applying pressure. 

Russian President Vladimir Putin said in a statement Thursday that "destructive foreign interference tramples on basic norms of the international law." 

Hua Chunying, China's foreign ministry spokesperson, said China  "opposes external intervention in Venezuela. We hope that the international community will jointly create favorable conditions for this." China has given Venezuela $65 billion in loans, cash and investment.

Juan Guaido, the head of the National Assembly, announced he is the interim president of Venezuela during a day of protests Jan. 23, in Caracas, Venezuela. U.S. President Donald Trump recognized Guaido's position and reiterated the U.S. position that Maduro's election was a sham. China and Russia stand with Maduro. Photo by Edilzon Gamez/Getty Images

Juan Guaido, the leader of Maduro's opposition, believes the electoral process that resulted in the re-election of Maduro and the creation of a single-party constitutional assembly was illegitimate. The 35-year-old engineer and former student activist relied on the original Constitution to become the interim president with Trump's support.

"Amnesty is on the table," Guaido said during an interview with Univision. "Those guarantees are for all those who are willing to side with the constitution to recover the constitutional order."

During an emergency session of the Organization of American States on Thursday, 16 of the 34 member nations recognized Guaido as interim president. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the U.S. is ready to provide $20 million in humanitarian assistance to Guaido's administration.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, center, participates in a meeting of the Permanent Council of the Organization of American States, or OAS, Jan. 24 in Washington, DC. The meeting was held at the request of the Permanent Missions of Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, the United States and Peru to consider recent developments in Venezuela. Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images

"As a friend of the Venezuelan people, we stand ready to help them even more, to help them begin the process of rebuilding their country and their economy from the destruction wrought by the criminally incompetent and illegitimate Maduro regime," Pompeo said.

Guaido asked the U.S. to prevent Maduro and his administration from transferring wealth outside of the country, an administration official said, according to the Associated Press. The Trump administration is disconnecting the "illegitimate Maduro regime from the source of its revenues," National Security Adviser John Bolton told reporters Thursday. 

U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton answers questions from the media outside the White House on Jan. 24, in Washington, DC. Bolton spoke on the situation in Venezuela during his remarks. Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images

After Maduro ordered U.S. diplomats to leave the country in 72 hours, the U.S. State Department evacuated nonessential staff at the U.S. Embassy in Caracas, which U.S. diplomats won't be closing any time soon. 

The U.S. Mission to the United Nations requested a Saturday meeting of the UN Security Council. 

On social media, nongovernmental organizations were still reporting increases in the number of protesters who were arrested and killed. Activists were still sharing the pictures of students who vanished after leaving their homes to protest Wednesday. 

Pope Francis, who was in Panama onThursday, released a statement saying he "is praying for the victims and for all the people of Venezuela."

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