Supporters of the Venezuelan opponent Juan Guaido headed Saturday “in peace” but in small numbers, to the barracks to urge once again the army to release Nicolas Maduro, the president who called the troops to be “ready” in case of American attack.
“The goal is to carry our message without falling into confrontation or provocation,” Juan Guaido wrote on Twitter.
And the opposition leader called on the Venezuelans to hand over a leaflet to the soldiers urging them to turn their backs on Nicolas Maduro, four days after trying unsuccessfully to provoke a military uprising.
The increasingly pressing calls of the opponent to the army are explained by the weight of this institution in the balance of power. It holds the oil sector, the economic heart of the country, and several ministries.
So far, the staff has remained faithful to Nicolas Maduro, who has been to two bases since Thursday morning to ensure the loyalty of troops to him.
Saturday at midday, Juan Guaido had not appeared in public and the mobilization around his initiative was relatively weak in front of the four barracks of Caracas where the opponents were gathered, according to journalists of AFP.
The surrounding areas were mostly guarded by the police and the Bolivarian National Guard, a militarized body, which prevented demonstrators from approaching and handing over leaflets to the military.
The opponents of Nicolas Maduro read, for some megaphone, the text that invites the military to “put themselves (…) on the side of peaceful transition”.
- “More soldiers” –
“We are asking the military to help end the usurpation and join the people,” 53-year-old Dina Alonso told AFP, posted near the National Guard headquarters.
In an interview with the Washington Post, Juan Guaido seems to have admitted to having presumed his chances during the military uprising. “We still need more soldiers to support him, to support the constitution,” he said.
For Juan Guaido and his supporters, the Venezuelan president is a “usurper” who keeps on the basis of the results of the “fraudulent” presidential election of last year. Juan Guaido proclaimed himself acting president on January 23 and is recognized as such by some fifty countries including the United States.
His call for an uprising on Tuesday sparked massive protests amidst violent clashes. At least four people died and 200 others were injured, according to Amnesty International, during the clashes.
The Socialist president on Saturday called on the army to be “ready” for the possibility of an attack by the “North American empire” during the inspection of a base in the state of Cojedes , in the north-west of the country.
Seven soldiers who took off from Caracas on Saturday for this base were killed in the crash of their helicopter. An “incident” that the president regretted on Twitter.
As early as Tuesday, the socialist president had launched a hunt for “traitors” and claimed to have foiled a “putschist skirmish” undertaken by the small group of rebel soldiers to join Juan Guaido.
Some 25 rebel soldiers then sought asylum at the embassies of Brazil and Panama, and Leopoldo Lopez, one of the opposition figures, fled to Spain.
Washington tries at all costs to push Nicolas Maduro to the exit for the benefit of Juan Guaido. On Wednesday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that “military intervention is possible (in Venezuela, ed.) If necessary, that’s what the United States will do.”
- Conciliatory tone of Trump –
And in a video message to Venezuelans on Saturday, he said “the moment of transition has come”.
For his part, Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez said on Twitter that Cuba, Nicolas Maduro’s closest ally, “will support and contribute to the resolution of disputes through a dialogue respectful of the sovereign equality of states” , without explicitly mentioning Venezuela.
US President Donald Trump, for his part, has, surprisingly, touted a “very positive exchange” with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on Venezuela, a file on which the two countries accuse each other of playing a dangerous game.
The tone has been rising for several months between Washington and Moscow, which accuses the United States of trying to organize a “coup” in Venezuela.
Mr Trump has adopted a particularly conciliatory tone towards Moscow, which contrasts with that of its main advisers and the State Department.
“Vladimir Putin is not trying to get involved in Venezuela beyond the fact that he would like to see positive developments,” he said from the Oval Office. “We had a very positive conversation,” he insisted.
The report of the Kremlin, which insisted that the call had been made at the initiative of Washington, was far removed from the tone of the host of the White House. “Interference in internal affairs, attempts to change by force of power in Caracas undermine prospects for a political settlement of the conflict,” warned Moscow.