Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido has called for the “largest march” in the South American country’s history to take place today, the day after a dramatic coup attempt.
Yesterday saw Guaido take to the streets of Venezuela’s capital Caracas alongside dozens of National Guard members in his latest attempt to topple President Nicolas Maduro.
A day of violence followed, with protests leaving over 100 injured but without the armed forces defecting from Maduro to the opposition. Maduro yesterday evening claimed troops loyal to him had defeated Western imperialism and the “coup-mongering far right”.
Yesterday night Guaido addressed his followers via his social media pages, saying: “We know that Maduro does not have the backing or the respect of the armed forces.”
“We have seen that protest yields results. We should keep up the pressure,” the 35-year-old said.
The violent protests came three months after Guaido, the president of the opposition-controlled National Assembly, invoked Venezuela’s constitution to declare himself president, arguing that the elections that returned Maduro in May 2018 were illegitimate.
Guaido and his many supporters in the National Assembly have gained the backing of the US and most Western countries including the UK, but Maduro has kept the support of Russia and China and, crucially, the armed forces.
Maduro, a socialist who took over the presidency of Venezuela from Hugo Chavez following the former leader’s death in 2013, has also called on his supporters to take to the streets in counter-protests.
Under Maduro the Venezuelan economy has collapsed, with living standards plummeting amid food, water and medicine shortages compounded by hyperinflation. Millions have fled while the president has also cracked down on dissent.
Despite widespread condemnation in the international community who have called for Maduro to step aside and allow fully democratic elections, prominent figures on the British left – including Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn – have refused to make such a demand.
Yesterday the Colombian ambassador to Britain addressed those who have failed to call for Maduro to step down in an interview with City A.M., saying they should visit the South American country to see the consequence of economic mismanagement.
Antonio José Ardila hit out at those who continue to offer political support to Maduro while South America is struggling to cope with more than three million refugees who have fled Venezuela.
A million of those have settled in Colombia, and Ardila claimed the humanitarian crisis is on a scale not seen before on the continent.
He told City A.M.: “Venezuela is a country that had one of, if not the best, infrastructure in South America, so we’re talking about something that has gone downhill to an incredible degree,” he said.