Trump vows to use economic, diplomatic powers to restore Venezuela

26 January, 2019, 02:26 | Author: Kevin Carter
  • Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro speaks to a crowd of supporters flanked by his wife Cilia Flores and Vice President Delcy Rodriguez

Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro reacts with National Electoral Council (CNE) President Tibisay Lucena during a ceremony to mark the opening of the judicial year at the Supreme Court of Justice (TSJ), in Caracas, Venezuela, January 24, 2019. Over the last decade, China has given Venezuela $65 billion in loans, cash and investment.

The European Union, which has imposed sanctions on Venezuela and boycotted Maduro's swearing-in, has been more cautious, stopping short of following Washington in recognizing the 35-year-old Guaido as acting president. "It could get pretty ugly", said Michael Shifter, president of the Inter-American Dialogue, a think tank on Western Hemisphere affairs in Washington.

Venezuela's top military brass pledged their unwavering support to Maduro, delivering vows of loyalty Thursday before rows of green-uniformed officers on state television.

Maduro still has control of the military in Venezuela, and according to the New York Times, at least 20 people were killed by pro-government forces this week.

That relationship deteriorated after the rise of Maduro's predecessor, Hugo Chávez, who saw Washington as an adversary and embraced close military ties with Russian Federation. "It is more than likely that the Americans will try to transport them to Venezuela through the border with Colombia, but a signal will be required to do that", he said, stressing that hostile acts against United States diplomats could be such a signal.

Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino Lopez, a key Maduro ally, dismissed efforts to install a "de-facto parallel government" as tantamount to a coup. "As Venezuelans, we solve our own problems", he added.

Tens of thousands of Venezuelans yesterday gathered across the country to march in protest against Maduro. On Wednesday, demonstrators clogged avenues in eastern Caracas, chanting "Get out, Maduro" and "Guaido, Presidente", while waving national flags.

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Guaido spoke in front of a rally of supporters in the Chacao neighborhood in the capital Caracas and took questions from local and worldwide media outlets.

But others stand by Maduro and support the expulsion of American diplomats announced Tuesday.

In a video earlier this week, Guaido said the constitution requires the military to disavow Maduro after his May 2018 re-election, which was widely condemned by the global community because his main opponents were banned from running.

"It is noteworthy that Venezuela's intelligence services and police are able to cope with large-scale protests, so it is important to make sure that the current situation remains within the framework of the police rather than army operations", he explained. "It's a big window of hope that has been opened", she said.

Many Venezuelans are awaiting Guaido's guidance on the often-beleaguered opposition's next steps.

The crisis in Venezuela marks a rare moment of focus on Latin America for the Pentagon, which has been consumed by insurgent wars in the Middle East and Afghanistan for almost two decades and is now seeking to reorient toward China. He escalated his campaign Wednesday by declaring the constitution gives him, as president of the congress, the authority to take over as interim president and form a transitional government until he calls new elections.

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