By Michael L Jarvis | UK Correspondent
Tensions and uncertainty continue to rise in - and about - Venezuela as the self-declared interim president Juan Guiado ramps up his moves to force Nicolas Maduro from office.
But Mr Maduro is refusing to give up power, instead claiming that the attempt to oust him has failed.
The coming days will see the extent to which Guiado’s ramping up of his moves against Maduro equates to the actual ramping up of pressure.
He says the current developments are not a coup but a peaceful transition of power.
That might very well be his intention and hope, but the live-stream of violent clashes suggests otherwise.
It’s also left to be seen if Maduro’s adamant stance is just facade behind which he is trying to mask the unravelling of his presidency.
A series of dramatic events in Venezuela starting on Tuesday have signalled a further escalation of tensions in the oil-rich but dirt-poor south American country.
By late Tuesday the anticipated showdown or even overthrow of Maduro didn’t quite materialise. Nor was there a climbdown by Guiado.
In addition to the stand-off between Guiado and Maduro, each now being backed by splits in the Venezuelan military, this is also a global face-off of immense proportions being played out in Venezuela.
In the Guiado camp are most of the western powers with the United States in the forefront, while on the Maduro side are eastern and communist powers led by Russia and China with Cuba, Iran and others in tow.
Russia, Cuba and China in particular are heavily invested in Venezuela diplomatically, economically and militarily.
Venezuela has the world’s largest oil deposits but has been unable to economically benefit from the potential of that vast resource.
Adding to the drama on Tuesday was a claim by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that President Maduro was ready to board a Cuban aircraft to head to exile, possibly in Havana, but was persuaded against it by the Russians.
But that has been denied by the Russians who accuse the US of fomenting a revolution in Venezuela.
What were said to be Cuba military vehicles were also seen on the streets of Caracas on Tuesday as forces loyal to President Maduro clashed with pro-Guiado demonstrators.
Meanwhile, US President Donald Trump threatened to slap what he called “the highest level” of sanctions on Cuba if it continued its military support of the Nicolas Maduro government.
Crucially, Secretary of State Pompeo had also reported on Tuesday that the Trump administration had not removed the military option from the table in what’s seen as a direct reference to Cuba’s support for Maduro.
So far, not much has been heard from the Chinese, who are no doubt monitoring the current developments closely, as is the rest of the world.
Just a few weeks ago the US and China got into a spat over US accusations that China was propping the Maduro regime.
But China, Venezuela’s largest foreign creditor, hit back at the US for what it called “groundless allegations”, saying Washington was attempting to slander Beijing and sow discord between it and Latin American countries.
In yet another twist, a former Venezuelan ambassador to the United Nations said he’d been informed that high-profile Venezuelan opposition politician Leopoldo López who was seen with Guiado on Tuesday morning shortly after being released from house arrest, had gone to the Chilean embassy.
Details are unclear but it was speculated that he had gone to seek asylum.
US-backed Chile is one of 50 countries which supports Guiado’s claim to the Venezuelan presidency.
A day characterised by a series of rapidly unfolding dramatic developments, some in the full glare of a global audience as events were live-streamed by major international media, might have only marked the beginning of an end or a new beginning for Venezuela.
Against this backdrop, the coming days will be crucial for Venezuela.