‘It’s time to rise up,’ Venezuelan officers told - GulfToday

‘It’s time to rise up,’ Venezuelan officers told

Venezuela-protests

A man holds up his fist to show support for President Nicolas Maduro in Caracas on Sunday. Associated Press

A Venezuelan general called on the country’s armed forces on Sunday to rise up against President Nicolas Maduro, who has relied on the backing of the military to hold on to power despite an economic collapse.

Ramon Rangel, who identified himself as an air force general, said the Venezuelan government is being controlled by the “communist dictatorship” in Cuba - a key Maduro ally.

“We have to find a way to get rid of the fear, to go out into the streets, to protest, and to seek a military union to change this political system,” Rangel, dressed in a suit with a copy of the constitution in his hand, said in a video posted on YouTube. “It’s time to rise up.”

While Rangel’s pronouncement marks another blow to Maduro after a handful of similar defections by senior officers this year, there is little to indicate that he will tip the scales.

Officers who have disavowed Maduro have fled the country and the military top brass - most notably those who command troops - continues to recognise Maduro.

The information ministry did not respond immediately to a request for comment. Reuters was also unable to obtain comment from Rangel.

Air Force Commander Pedro Juliac posted a picture of Rangel on Twitter on Sunday with the words “traitor to the Venezuelan people and the revolution” printed across the image.

Rangel was an active military officer who fled to Colombia last month, according to a source close to Venezuela’s military who asked not to be identified. Unlike other officers who have made similar pronouncements, Rangel did not voice support for Juan Guaido - the opposition leader who invoked the constitution in January to assume the interim presidency, arguing that Maduro’s 2018 re-election was a fraud.

More than 50 nations, including the United States and most South American nations, call Guaido Venezuela’s legitimate leader.

Guaido and a group of soldiers called on the armed forces on April 30 to turn on Maduro, but the military never joined and the uprising collapsed. The government called the event a coup attempt and accused a group of 10 opposition legislators of treason for joining rallies that day.

Venezuela is suffering a hyper inflationary collapse that has fueled a migration exodus of some 3.5 million people in the past three years.

Guaido said on Saturday he has asked his envoy to the United States to meet with Pentagon officials to “co-operate” on a solution to the South American country’s political crisis.

Guaido, the leader of the opposition-controlled National Assembly, added he had received word from China that the country would join a diplomatic effort between European and Latin American countries, known as the International Contact Group on Venezuela, to negotiate an end to the crisis.

In January, Guaido invoked the OPEC nation’s constitution to assume an interim presidency, arguing President Nicolas Maduro’s 2018 re-election was illegitimate. He has been recognized by most Western and Latin American countries, but Maduro has retained the support of allies China, Russia and Cuba.

Guaido’s effort to oust Maduro so he can take power and call new elections has stalled in recent weeks, after an attempted military uprising on April 30 was put down. Guaido told an Italian newspaper this week that he would “probably” accept a US military intervention if the United States proposed it.

“We have instructed our ambassador Carlos Vecchio to meet immediately... with the Southern Command and its admiral to establish a direct relationship,” Guaido said at a rally in Caracas on Saturday. “We have said from the beginning that we will use all the resources at our disposal to build pressure.”

Representatives of the US Southern Command and Vecchio did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Trump administration officials have repeatedly said that “all options are on the table” to oust Maduro, who calls Guaido a US puppet seeking to oust him in a coup.

The Southern Command said in a tweet on Thursday that it was prepared to discuss “how we can support the future role” of Venezuelan armed forces leaders who “restore constitutional order,” when invited by Guaido.

Venezuela’s Information Ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino separately said on Saturday that a US Coast Guard ship had entered Venezuelan territorial waters, which he said “we will not accept.”

Agencies