Opposition leader Guaido calls on more of Venezuela’s generals to change sides as president Maduro insists he is going nowhere and slams ’emperor of the world’ President Trump

Sunday, February 3, 2019
By Paul Martin

Guaido called on Maduro to stage an election for the presidency imminently
The opposition leader declared himself Venezuela’s legitimate ruler last month
Thousands took to the streets of Caracas yesterday to protest against Maduro

3 February 2019

Venezuela’s opposition leader called on more members of the military to abandon the country’s socialist government following the defection of a high-ranking general, while President Nicolas Maduro proposed holding early National Assembly elections that could potentially oust his challenger.

Maduro’s call for early legislative voting is likely to intensify his standoff with rival Juan Guaido, who heads the opposition-controlled National Assembly and is demanding a new presidential election. Guaido declared himself Venezuela’s legitimate ruler on Jan. 23, and has the support of Washington and most South American nations.

Speaking from behind a podium decorated with Venezuela’s presidential seal, Guaido told supporters he would keep his opposition movement in the streets until Maduro stopped ‘usurping’ the presidency and agreed to a presidential election overseen by international observers. On Saturday, tens of thousands of Venezuelans joined opposition protests against Maduro in Caracas and other cities.

Guaido called on ‘blocks’ of the military to defect from Maduro’s administration and ‘get on the side of the Venezuelan people.’

‘We don’t just want you to stop shooting at protesters,’ Guaido said in a hoarse voice. ‘We want you to be part of the reconstruction of Venezuela.’

He said in the coming days, the opposition would try to move humanitarian aid into the country by land and sea along three border points, including the Colombian city of Cucuta. He described the move as a ‘test’ for Venezuela’s armed forces, which will have to choose if they allow the much needed aid to pass, or if they instead obey the orders of Maduro’s government.

Maduro also dug in his heels, insisting he was the only president of Venezuela and describing Saturday’s anti-government protests as part of a U.S.-led coup attempt.

‘I agree that the legislative power of the country be re-legitimized and that we hold free elections with guarantees, and the people choose a new National Assembly,’ Maduro said at a pro-government demonstration in Caracas.

The opposition controls the National Assembly while government supporters control the more-powerful Constituent Assembly, so calls for a vote to replace the former and not the latter was seen as a move against Guaido.

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