Russian airplane in Venezuela sparks rumors of gold theft by Maduro ally

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In an opinion piece published Wednesday evening, Venezuela's would-be interim President and opposition leader Juan Guaido confirmed that his faction is engaged in secret talks with members of Venezuela's military, trying to gin up support for regime change.

But Guaido cautioned that he hopes it doesn't come to that.

Russian Central Bank Governor Elvira Nabiullina on Thursday shot down reports that Venezuela's gold was winging its way to Russia, a staunch backer of the hard-left socialist Maduro.

Major European countries have set a weekend deadline for Maduro to call such elections or they will join the United States in recognizing Guaido, the speaker of the national assembly, as Venezuela's interim president.

Meanwhile, California-based Chevron Corp. said its operations in Venezuela will continue normally for the "foreseeable future" despite newly imposed USA sanctions on Venezuelan state-owned oil company Petroleos de Venezuela SA.

Until very recently, Guaido, an industrial engineer and former student leader, was nearly virtually unknown on the global stage.

Guaido has turned down offers from the presidents of Mexico and Uruguay to negotiate with Maduro.

'The transition to democracy is imminent, ' Yanez said in a video announcement.

The US has slapped new sanctions on Venezuela's state-owned oil company, a significant source of wealth for the Maduro government, and warned other countries against accepting shipments of gold or other national assets from the socialist leader.

Maduro was re-elected to a six-year term last year, and though he asserted the elections were fair, worldwide observers have questioned their legitimacy.

Guaido said there would be something for everyone in society to do as Venezuela moves forward, including the military. The military's top leadership is backing Maduro, though analysts warn that rank-and-file troops frustrated by their country's economic and humanitarian crisis may not share their unwavering loyalty.

Guaido, head of the Venezuelan National Assembly, declared himself interim president during an anti-government rally on January 23, which was recognized by the United States.

On Saturday morning, streams of marchers walked from middle-class and poor neighborhoods to gather at points across the capital of Caracas for a demonstration to demand Maduro's resignation and a transitional government that will hold new elections in the South American country. Although that was quickly suppressed, it helped spark a week of protests in which 40 people were killed in clashes with security forces, with hundreds more arrested, according to the United Nations.

"We explicitly reject any talk about any type of effort that would allow Nicolas Maduro to usurp or, maintain himself in power, or be a political player in that regard", the official said.

"We expect them to be released immediately", she said in Bucharest where European Union foreign ministers are set to discuss the crisis later Thursday.

Maduro, who first took office in 2013, has faced waves of protests in recent years as he presided over a collapsing economy, with hyperinflation and chronic food shortages.