Venezuela allows US diplomats to stay, defusing showdown, as crisis continues

Amidst its ongoing political crisis, Venezuela defused a showdown by suspending a demand that American diplomats leave the country.

Over the weekend, Washington officials called on the world to pick a side in the South American nation's humanitarian situation after socialist President Nicolas Maduro broke off relations with the United States on Wednesday.

The Trump administration and several other nations took steps to recognize opposition leader Juan Guaido as Venezuela's interim president, which Maduro called an attempted coup.

On Sunday, White House national security adviser John Bolton warned that any violence against American diplomatic personnel would be met with a significant U.S. response. Bolton also noted Cuba's support for Maduro's paramilitary forces in his statement.

On Saturday, Venezuelan Colonol Jose Luis Silva publicly broke with Maduro in a video recorded at the country's embassy in Washington, Reuters reported.

POMPEO AT UN CALLS MADURO REGIME IN VENEZUELA ‘ILLEGITIMATE MAFIA STATE’

“Today I speak to the people of Venezuela, and especially to my brothers in the armed forces of the nation, to recognize President Juan Guaido as the only legitimate president,” Silva said in the video.

Maduro has rejected calls for a new election, but on Sunday said he was open to dialogue and that meeting with President Trump was "not impossible," according to Reuters.

Anti-government protesters cheer after Juan Guaido, head of Venezuela's opposition-run congress, declares himself interim president of the South American country until new elections can be called, at a rally demanding the resignation of President Nicolas Maduro, in Caracas, Venezuela, Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2019.

Anti-government protesters cheer after Juan Guaido, head of Venezuela's opposition-run congress, declares himself interim president of the South American country until new elections can be called, at a rally demanding the resignation of President Nicolas Maduro, in Caracas, Venezuela, Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2019. (AP Photo/Boris Vergara)

A source familiar with the Trump administration's thinking on Venezuela told Fox News that the White House is encouraged by the fact that Venezuela's Defense Attache in Washington has publicly turned against Maduro and thrown his support behind opposition leader Guaido.

Although Maduro gave U.S. diplomats three days to leave the country, the Trump administration said it wouldn't obey, arguing that Maduro is no longer the country's legitimate president, setting the stage for a Saturday night showdown.

AS VENEZUELA CRISIS DEEPENS, US EMBASSY FACES SECURITY CHALLENGE

Late Saturday, the Foreign Ministry issued a statement saying Maduro's government was suspending the expulsion to provide a 30-day window for negotiating with U.S. officials about setting up a "U.S. interests office" in Venezuela and a similar Venezuelan office in the United States, according to the Associated Press.

The State Department did not confirm the Venezuelan government's account, reiterating only that its priority remains the safety of its personnel and that it has no plans to close the embassy.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo blasted Maduro's "illegitimate mafia state" in a speech before the United Nations on Saturday, Fox News previously reported.

“We’re here to urge all nations to support the democratic aspirations of Venezuelan people as they try to free themselves from former President Maduro’s illegitimate mafia state,” Pompeo said.

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Earlier on Saturday, France, Germany, Britain and Spain set an eight-day deadline for calling elections for recognizing Guaido's leadership. According to Axios, Israel on Sunday joined the U.S., Canada and several other Latin American countries in announcing that it would recognize Guaido as the de facto president of Venezuela.

Fox News' Robert Gearty and Gillian Turner, along withThe Associated Press, contributed to this report.