Maduro, Guaido Scramble For Control Over Venezuela’s Army

Monday, January 28, 2019
By Paul Martin

by Tyler Durden
Mon, 01/28/2019

Even with the UK refusing to return more than $1 billion in Venezuelan gold and the US granting opposition leader (and self-proclaimed acting president) Juan Guaido access to Venezuelan state accounts at the Federal Reserve, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro still controls the most important lever of the Venezuelan state: The Bolivarian Armed Forces.

But that grip is beginning to slip as, over the weekend, Col. Jose Luis Silva, Venezuela’s military envoy to Washington, became the highest-ranking official to date to officially defect to the opposition. His departure highlighted the most consequential struggle to determine who emerges victorious during the leadership challenge as the US-backed opposition seeks to wrest power from the ruling socialist party.

Col. José Luis Silva told el Nuevo Herald in a telephone interview from Washington, “As the Venezuelan defense attaché in the United States, I do not recognize Mr. Nicolás Maduro as president of Venezuela.” Col. Silva then stated, “My message to all armed forces members, to everyone who carries a gun, is to please let’s not attack the people. We are also part of the people, and we’ve had enough of supporting a government that has betrayed the most basic principles and sold itself to other countries.”

Mike Pompeo told the UN Security Council over the weekend that the world must ‘pick sides’ in Venezuela. But ultimately, the country’s military will have the final say over whether Maduro manages to cling to power. Silva was branded a “traitor” by the Venezuelan military and police, while Guaido welcomed him to the opposition.

US secretary of state Mike Pompeo told a weekend meeting of the UN Security Council that they had to pick a side on Venezuela. “Either you stand with the forces of freedom, or you’re in league with Maduro and his mayhem,” he said. He added that he hoped countries “will ensure that they disconnect their financial systems from the Maduro regime” without giving details. The US is the largest market for Venezuelan oil, which brings in virtually all the country’s export revenue.

To try and convince the military to abandon Maduro, the Financial Times reported that supporters of Guaido have been handing out copies of an amnesty bill to members of the military promising to absolve them of any crimes short of “crimes against humanity” dating back to 1999. Guaido unveiled the document in a tweet over the weekend.

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