Anti-government protesters in Caracas, Venezuela. (Image: AP/Rodrigo)

The current political struggle in Venezuela has just entered a crucial phase, with the pressure on the embattled Maduro government becoming intense. Key European nations gave Maduro until this weekend to call new elections, or they would recognise challenger Juan Guaidó as the legitimate leader.

US Secretary of State John Bolton said Maduro and other leaders had to choose between retirement "on a beach, far from Venezuela" and Guantanamo Bay. An air force major-general defected from military support for Maduro and posted a video declaring that the rank-and-file military was opposed to the regime -- but he was one figure, and not a key commander. Now Guaidó’s forces are lobbying China to switch their support away from Maduro.