Venezuela’s Guaido says 600 military officers have abandoned Maduro

Interim president says there is a ‘very clear process of transition to democracy’

Venezuelan opposition leader and self-declared acting president Juan Guaido, talks during a joint press conference with Paraguay’s president Mario Abdo Benitez (out of frame), at the presidential palace in Asunción on March 1st. Photograph:  Norberto Duarte/AFP/Getty

Venezuelan opposition leader and self-declared acting president Juan Guaido, talks during a joint press conference with Paraguay’s president Mario Abdo Benitez (out of frame), at the presidential palace in Asunción on March 1st. Photograph: Norberto Duarte/AFP/Getty

 

Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido, visiting Paraguay on Friday to raise support for a change of government in his country, said that 600 members of the military had abandoned the government of president Nicolas Maduro in recent days.

Mr Guaido, head of Venezuela’s National Assembly, has invoked constitutional provisions to assume an interim presidency, arguing that Mr Maduro’s re-election last year was fraudulent. Mr Guaido has since been recognized by most Western nations as the rightful leader of Venezuela.

However, Mr Maduro still retains the loyalty of the bulk of Venezuela’s armed forces and controls state institutions.

“In the next few hours we will announce new protest marches,” Mr Guaido said in Asunción at a news conference, after meeting with Paraguayan leader Mario Abdo, who received the opposition figure as a head of state.

“We have spoken clearly to the armed forces of Venezuela. They have seen more than 600 officers in recent days switch to side with the constitution,” he added.

“There is a very clear process of transition to democracy.”

Paraguay’s president Mario Abdo Benitez (right) is pictured Venezuelan opposition leader and self-declared acting president Juan Guaido at the presidential palace on Friday. Photograph: Norberto Duarte/AFP/Getty
Paraguay’s president Mario Abdo Benitez (right) is pictured Venezuelan opposition leader and self-declared acting president Juan Guaido at the presidential palace on Friday. Photograph: Norberto Duarte/AFP/Getty

His press team said he was scheduled to go to Argentina later on Friday to meet with president Mauricio Macri, a strong critic of Mr Maduro.

In a speech earlier on Friday, Mr Macri said his government was playing a regional role “to condemn human rights violations in Venezuela and recognize the president in charge, Juan Guaido.”

Argentina’s foreign ministry confirmed the two would meet in Buenos Aires and that Mr Guaido would hold a news conference.

Mr Guaido has been travelling around the region, seeking to drum up support. He has visited Brazil and Colombia this week, but said he would return to Caracas by Monday, where he faces possible arrest for disobeying a Supreme Court order that he should not leave the country pending an investigation.

The United States, which backs Mr Guaido, has imposed fresh sanctions on six Venezuelan security officials and revoked the visas of dozens of associates and their families with ties to Mr Maduro, it said on Friday. – Reuters