CARACAS, Venezuela – The Latest on Venezuela, where a two-day national strike has been called beginning Wednesday to protest President Nicolas Maduro's plans to rewrite the country's constitution (all times local):
Cuba says it has no intention of trying to help mediate a solution to the political crisis rocking Venezuela. Instead it's voicing full support for the embattled government of President Nicolas Maduro, a key ideological and economic ally.
Speculation that Havana could play a role in potential international mediation had been sparked by a recent visit to the island by President Juan Manuel Santos of Colombia.
Cuban Communist Party Second Secretary Jose Ramon Machado Ventura says "Cuba roundly rejects such insinuations and demands absolute respect for the sovereignty and self-determination" of Venezuela.
In his words: "Those who from the outside try to give lessons on democracy and human rights while encouraging coup-mongering violence and terrorism should take their hands off that nation."
Machado Ventura adds that it is up to the Venezuelan people and Maduro's government to overcome their challenges "without foreign meddling in their internal affairs."
He spoke Wednesday at a ceremony marking the anniversary of a failed barracks uprising that is considered the beginning of Fidel Castro's revolution.
Venezuelan opposition leaders have called a two-day general strike beginning Wednesday to protest Maduro's plans to rewrite the country's constitution.
Venezuelan opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez has released his first direct message since his release on house arrest this month, calling on Venezuelans to support a 48-hour general strike against government plans to rewrite the constitution and appealing to the army not to crack down on protests.
In a 15-minute video recorded in his home and released overnight Wednesday, Lopez says President Nicolas Maduro's administration is seeking to annihilate democracy. He calls on Venezuelans "to stop this with peaceful resistance and deep commitment to our efforts."
He calls on the Venezuelan army not to deploy Sunday to protect the vote.
"We're on the brink of their trying to annihilate the republic that you swore to defend," he says. "I ask you not to be accomplices in the annihilation of the republic."