Juan Guaido arrives to take part in a rally in Anaco, Venezuela, on Friday. Carlos Jasso/Reuters
LECHERIA:: Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s administration has reached its final stage and there will soon be a change in government, opposition leader Juan Guaido said, adding that his allies have spoken with high-ranking military members about changing sides.
In an interview on Friday, Guaido said Maduro had lost the ability to “finance political blackmail” to retain power thanks to pressure brought by foreign governments who have recognized him as the South American country’s rightful leader in the midst of a hyperinflationary economic collapse.
“They are isolated, alone, they are falling apart day by day,” Guaido, the president of the opposition-controlled National Assembly, said in Lecheria, a city in northeastern Anzoategui state, where he held several rallies with supporters over the weekend.
“The citizens do not like them, they reject them, they hate them, because that is what they have received from them: hate.” Venezuela plunged into a deep political crisis in January, when Guaido invoked the constitution to assume an interim presidency, arguing Maduro’s May 2018 re-election was illegitimate. He has been recognized by most Western countries, including the United States, as Venezuela’s rightful leader.
Maduro, a socialist, says Guaido is a puppet of the United States and is attempting to lead a coup against him to wrest control of the OPEC nation’s oil reserves, the largest in the world.
He retains control of state functions and the loyalty of the military top brass.
But Guaido said that hold was slipping thanks in part to pressure from abroad.
The White House said in a statement it was committed to preventing Maduro’s government from stealing Venezuela’s resources and from arresting those pushing for political change.
Guaido’s chief of staff, Roberto Marrero, was detained in a pre-dawn raid on Thursday, sparking vows of reprisals from the United States, which along with most Western countries backs Guaido as Venezuela’s rightful leader.
“The United States will not tolerate the arrest of peaceful democratic actors, including members of the democratically-elected Venezuelan National Assembly and those Venezuelans working with interim President Juan Guaido,” the White House said in a statement.
The United States imposed sanctions on Friday on Venezuela’s development bank, Bandes, a day after the Trump administration warned there would be consequences for the arrest by Venezuelan authorities of opposition leader Juan Guaido’s top aide.
The US Treasury said it was slapping the sanctions on Banco de Desarrollo Economico y Social de Venezuela, including its subsidiaries in Uruguay and Bolivia. It also imposed sanctions on state-owned Venezuelan commercial banks, including Banco de Venezuela and Banco Bicentenario.
In a statement, Venezuela’s foreign ministry said it “energetically rejects the unilateral, coercive, arbitrary and illegal measures” taken by the Trump administration. It said the sanctions would affect millions of Venezuelan people and companies who use the banks.
Guaido has also taken control of US refiner Citgo, a PDVSA subsidiary and the country’s most important overseas asset.
“The diplomatic pressure has worked, the economic pressure and the pressure on assets have worked,” Guaido said.
Shortly after assuming the interim presidency, Guaido offered amnesty to members of the military who took his side.
While hundreds have deserted, with many fleeing to neighbouring Colombia, the top brass has stood by Maduro’s side.
Guaido estimated that between 80-85 per cent of military members were “convinced of the need for a change in Venezuela,” and that his team has been meeting with higher-ranking members.
“What’s missing? That the leadership, the high command of the armed forces, take the side of the constitution,” he said.
The 35-year-old engineer, who had a low profile before assuming the presidency of the National Assembly this year, said he was prepared for more members of his team to be detained after his chief of staff, Roberto Marrero, was arrested on Thursday under accusations of terrorism.
Venezuela’s Supreme Court has initiated an investigation of Guaido on the grounds that he had helped foreign countries interfere in internal matters.