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The Latest: Melania Trump meets wife of Venezuela's Guaido

Published
Supporters of Venezuela's self-proclaimed interim president Juan Guaido listen as he speaks during a meeting with electricity experts in Caracas, Venezuela, Thursday, March 28, 2019. The Venezuelan government on Thursday said it has barred Guaido from holding public office for 15 years, though the National Assembly leader responded soon afterward that he would continue his campaign to oust President Nicolas Maduro. (AP Photo/Boris Vergara)

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — The Latest on Venezuela's political crisis (all times local):

6:15 p.m.

Melania Trump says after meeting with the wife of Venezuela's opposition leader that freedom is the greatest gift that can be given to children.

The first lady met privately Thursday with Fabiana Rosales at the Trumps' estate in Palm Beach, Florida.

The White House says Mrs. Trump expressed concern for Venezuelans, including children, who are suffering amid the political and economic crisis roiling the country, causing sharp declines in basic goods and services like electricity. She also reaffirmed the Trump administration's commitment to new leadership in Venezuela.

President Donald Trump and the leaders of dozens of countries recognize Juan Guaido, Rosales' husband, as Venezuela's legitimate president. They have been increasing pressure on President Nicolas Maduro to step down on grounds that his election was illegitimate.

Maduro has refused to give up power.

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3:15 p.m.

Venezuela's government says electricity has been restored in most of the country following nationwide blackouts this week.

Communications Minister Jorge Rodriguez on Thursday gave an upbeat assessment of efforts to restore Venezuela's fragile grid, though some areas remained without power.

Schools and public offices were still closed, but there was more traffic in the streets of Caracas and many people were able to make electronic payments for the first time in days.

Venezuela is suffering from hyperinflation and cash is scarce, so most people use debit cards to make even small purchases.

The latest blackouts started on Monday, inflicting more hardship on Venezuelans who were only starting to recover from outages earlier this month.

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2:30 p.m.

The Venezuelan government on Thursday said it has barred opposition leader Juan Guaido from holding public office for 15 years, though the National Assembly leader responded soon afterward that he would continue his campaign to oust President Nicolas Maduro.

The announcement by state comptroller Elvis Amoroso, a close ally of Maduro, cited alleged irregularities in the financial records of Guaido and reflected a tightening of government pressure on an opposition movement backed by the United States and dozens of other countries.

"We're going to continue in the streets," Guaido said soon after Amoroso's statements on state television.

The power struggle between Maduro and Guaido has intensified the sense of crisis in Venezuela, which suffered its worst blackouts earlier this month and then another round of power outages that paralyzed commerce this week.

Opposition leader Juan Guaido, self-proclaimed interim president of Venezuela, talks during a meeting calling for more protests, in Caracas, Venezuela, Wednesday, March 27, 2019. (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko)
Opposition leader Juan Guaido, self-proclaimed interim president of Venezuela, talks during a meeting calling for more protests, in Caracas, Venezuela, Wednesday, March 27, 2019. (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko)
Opposition leader Juan Guaido, self-proclaimed interim president of Venezuela, talks during a meeting calling for more protests, in Caracas, Venezuela, Wednesday, March 27, 2019. (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko)
Supporters of Venezuela's self-proclaimed interim president Juan Guaido listen as he speaks during a meeting with electricity experts in Caracas, Venezuela, Thursday, March 28, 2019. The Venezuelan government on Thursday said it has barred Guaido from holding public office for 15 years, though the National Assembly leader responded soon afterward that he would continue his campaign to oust President Nicolas Maduro. (AP Photo/Boris Vergara)
Supporters of Venezuela's self-proclaimed interim president Juan Guaido listen as he speaks during a meeting with electricity experts in Caracas, Venezuela, Thursday, March 28, 2019. The Venezuelan government on Thursday said it has barred Guaido from holding public office for 15 years, though the National Assembly leader responded soon afterward that he would continue his campaign to oust President Nicolas Maduro. (AP Photo/Boris Vergara)