Bolton presses key aides to Venezuela's Maduro to abandon him

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. national security adviser John Bolton on Tuesday singled out three senior aides to Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro who he said must make good on commitments they purportedly made to the opposition for a peaceful transition away from Maduro’s rule.

Speaking at the White House during a day of anti-government protests in Venezuela, Bolton named Venezuelan Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino, Supreme Court chief judge Maikel Moreno and presidential guard commander Ivan Rafael Hernandez Dala as having told the opposition that Maduro needed to give up power to opposition leader Juan Guaido.

Bolton offered no evidence that three of Maduro’s top loyalists had expressed a willingness to turn against the socialist president, except to say the opposition had kept the Trump administration well informed about their discussions.

“It’s still very important for three figures in the Maduro regime who have been talking to the opposition over these last three months to make good on their commitment to achieve the peaceful transition of power from the Maduro clique to interim president Juan Guaido,” Bolton told reporters.

“All agreed that Maduro had to go,” Bolton said. “They need to be able to act this afternoon and this evening to be able to bring other military forces to the side of the interim president.”

Guaido on Tuesday made his strongest call yet to the military to help him oust Maduro, and violence broke out at anti-government protests as the country hit a new crisis point after years of political and economic chaos.

Several dozen armed troops accompanying Guaido clashed with soldiers supporting Maduro at a rally outside the La Carlota air base in Caracas, but the incident fizzled out and did not appear to be part of an immediate attempt by the opposition to take power through military force.

Reporting by Matt Spetalnick, Roberta Rampton and Tim Ahmann in Washington; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and James Dalgleish