Venezuela’s opposition leader Juan Guaido said he has held secret meetings with members of the military as he continues to put pressure on the regime with the growing support of the international community.
Writing in The New York Times on Wednesday, Mr Guaido said that support from the Venezuelan military is “crucial” to efforts to oust President Nicolas Maduro, and that most of those in uniform agree that the status quo cannot continue.
It came as Britain’s foreign secretary, Jeremy Hunt, is expected to urge EU nations to impose sanctions on members of Mr Maduro’s inner circle. Mr Hunt is expected to use an informal summit in Romania to make the call.
In an op-ed in the Times Mr Guadio wrote: “The military’s withdrawal of support from Mr Maduro is crucial to enabling a change in government, and the majority of those in service agree that the country’s recent travails are untenable,” Guaido wrote.
“The transition will require support from key military contingents. We have had clandestine meetings with members of the armed forces and the security forces.”
A man walks past a mosaic depicting late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, left, and Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro on a wall in Caracas
A man walks past a mosaic depicting late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, left, and Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro on a wall in Caracas CREDIT: JUAN BARRETO/ AFP
White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders tweeted a link to Mr Guaido’s op-ed along with the message: “America stands with the people of Venezuela.”
Mr Guaido declared himself interim president last week, arguing that Maduro’s reelection was illegitimate and that he, as president of the National Assembly, was constitutionally mandated to step in.
He quickly earned the support of the United States and several Latin American countries, and six major European nations have told Maduro to call fresh elections by the weekend or they too will recognize his opponent.
Opposition demonstrators take part in protest against the government of President Nicolas Maduro, called by opposition leader on Wednesday
Opposition demonstrators take part in protest against the government of President Nicolas Maduro, called by opposition leader on Wednesday CREDIT: YURI CORTEZ/AFP
Venezuela – which has the world’s largest proven oil reserves – has suffered an economic meltdown under Maduro’s leadership, marked by hyperinflation and shortages of basic necessities such as food and medicine.
Millions have been left in poverty, while 2.3 million more have fled the country, unleashing a migration crisis in South America.
Mr Maduro has offered to open dialogue with Mr Guadio. But in a defiant Facebook message addressed directly to the American people, he warned against intervention.
Donald J. Trump
Spoke today with Venezuelan Interim President Juan Guaido to congratulate him on his historic assumption of the presidency and reinforced strong United States support for Venezuela’s fight to regain its democracy….
Donald J. Trump
….Large protests all across Venezuela today against Maduro. The fight for freedom has begun!
9:58 PM – Jan 30, 2019
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In the video on Wednesday he said: “We will not allow a Vietnam in Latin America. If the US intends to intervene against us they will get a Vietnam worse than they could have imagined. We do not allow violence. We are a peaceful people,” Venezuela’s embattled leftist leader added.
“I ask that Venezuela be respected and I ask for the support of the people of the US so there isn’t a new Vietnam, least of all here in our America.”