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Guaidó says liberator Simón Bolívar allowed foreign military intervention

Guaidó says pressuring Maduro will help make freedom possible in Venezuela

CARACAS, Venezuela – Since President Donald Trump and more than 50 other countries recognized Juan Guaidó as Venezuela’s interim president, the 35-year-old engineer -- whose father is a retired airline pilot and mother is a retired teacher -- has been asking Venezuelans to join his protests. 

Embattled President Nicolás Maduro, a former bus driver and union leader who Hugo Chávez chose as his successor in 2013, has the support of Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping. The superpowers' friction escalated when the U.S. declared Maduro's re-election illegitimate.

Although Guaidó's mentor Leopoldo López was arrested in 2014 after calling for protests, his stubborn determination hasn't faltered. He said he knows Maduro will have to step down eventually, and he hinted at the possibility of U.S. military intervention. 

"It might be an organic transition like we saw in 1958," Guaidó said in Spanish, as he referred to the coup that ended a decade of Gen. Marcos Pérez Jiménez's military dictatorship. "It might be a forced exit, which could happen by using the Venezuelan military, or through international cooperation, like we saw in a historic event in this country that was in 1819 when Simón Bolívar authorized 5,000 British troops to enter the country." 

Venezuelans on both sides of the political spectrum hold liberator Simón Bolívar in high regard. He led the secession of Venezuela from the Spanish Empire. Photo by Roger Lemoyne/Getty Images

Guaidó's new call for dissent is May 1st. Since he cited emergency powers in Venezuela's 1999 constitution to step up as interim president Jan. 23 with the support of the elected members of the opposition-controlled National Assembly, he has asked Venezuelans to demonstrate against Maduro's failures. 

Despite the intimidation tactics of the "colectivos," the socialist gangs of armed civilian groups, large crowds have responded to his calls nationwide. During political rallies, both Maduro and his ever pugnacious second-in-command, Diosdado Cabello, have referred to the "colectivos" as the defenders of the peace.  

Human rights groups such as Provea disagree with Cabello, the chief of the National Constituent Assembly and the president of Venezuela's Socialist Party. The activists say the "colectivos" are anything but "peace squads" and describe them as government-armed paramilitaries tasked with intimidating protesters. 

Human rights activists say Maduro's policy of repression has resulted in arbitrary detentions, excessive use of force, child abuse, murder, torture and civilians tried in military courts. Guaidó could face a court-martial proceeding. It is a possibility that concerns his wife, Fabiana Andreina Rosales, a 27-year-old former journalist. They have a daughter named Miranda Guaidó Rosales who turns 2 years old in May.

After the 2015 election that empowered the opposition in the National Assembly, Maduro stacked the Supreme Court with loyalists. He also created the National Constituent Assembly to rewrite the constitution in 2017.  Since Maduro has the support of high-ranking officers, Guaidó has offered members of the armed forces amnesty. He has also named ambassadors to key diplomatic posts.

The parallel governments of Guaidó and Maduro are the least of Venezuelans' problems. Venezuelan exiles living in South Florida say their relatives' plight back home includes chaos during power outages, lack of water, shortages of food and medicines, the poor state of hospitals and schools and a high crime rate. The minimum wage is about $30 a month. 

The United Nations estimates the Venezuelan diaspora at 3.7 million. It's not unusual to see desperate Venezuelans with backpacks hiking in Colombia and Brazil or looking for work in Ecuador or Peru. They are risking their lives at sea and have face xenophobia through Latin American and Europe. Family separations are too common. 

Guaidó says continuing pressure is key

Venezuela’s recession is in its sixth year. Economists say the collapse is among the world’s worst in recent history. Investors have compared Venezuela's hyperinflation to that of Germany in the 1920s and Zimbabwe in 2008. The bolívar is so devalued that Maduro pegged it to the petro, the goverment's gold-backed cryptocurrency, as the sovereign bolívar. 

The International Monetary Fund expects the economy to shrink by 25% this year. Power outages are knocking out state-owned Petroleos de Venezuela S.A.'s oil output and U.S.sanctions are hurting revenues. The U.S. also sanctioned Venezuela’s central bank, which was selling gold to get foreign currency to import goods. 

Patients who can afforded are leaving the country in search of better health care. Scientists say the health system's collapse and medicine shortages have contributed to the resurgence of diseases such as malaria and dengue. Maduro denied the crisis when he blocked U.S. aid coming from the Colombian border in February, but he recently accepted aid from the Red Cross.

While Maduro blames the crisis on Americans' voracious appetite for oil, Guaidó said failed socialist policies, neglect, corruption and incompetence are to blame for the collapse of the oil-rich country. He said Maduro's usurpation of power has to end to give way for a transitional government that will make sure there are free and democratic elections. 

For now, Guaidó said Maduro's opposition needs to continue to apply pressure. Street protests, he said, are still a powerful way for Venezuelans to take action against Maduro. 

"Everyone must insist on change," Guaidó said.

 

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