Rival Protests Underway in Venezuela as General Defects

Venezuela's National Assembly head and self-proclaimed 'acting president' Juan Guaido said he believes the military is fed up of the regime

Foreign Secretary call with Juan Guaido: 30 January 2019

General Francisco Yanez, high command of Venezuela's air force, said he now recognized opposition leader Juan Guaido as interim head-of-state, according to media reports Saturday.

A visibly flustered but determined Juan Guaido told a crowd gathered at a university that members of a special police unit known for its brutal tactics had gone to his high-rise apartment in a middle-class neighborhood of Caracas while his 20-month-old daughter was inside. "Do you agree? I agree and I stand by that decision". "Wives are sacred. So don't cross that red line".

In a possible sign of Maduro's weakening support, riot police who had planned on blocking demonstrators from reaching the rallies made a decision to let them pass in at least three cities, according to Guaido and Reuters witnesses.

"Once more they are playing the intimidation game", Guaido said.

Gen. Francisco Yanez is the first high ranking officer to leave Maduro's government since January 23, when Guaido declared himself the country's legitimate leader by invoking two articles of the Venezuelan constitution that he argues give him the right to assume presidential powers.

Mr Maduro also held a rally to commemorate the 20th anniversary of late socialist leader Hugo Chavez's first inauguration as president in 1999, proposing early parliamentary elections as he seeks to shore up his rule. "This is time for action", Pence told a few hundred people at a rally in a local church, many of whom waved Venezuelan flags and shouted "Libertad!" He reassured them the US would continue efforts to oust Maduro from office.

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"Regime resorts to targeting a 20-month-old baby", Kimberly Breier, the current US assistant secretary of state for the region, wrote on Twitter.

It is unclear whether Maduro's government, which denies the country is suffering a humanitarian crisis, will let any foreign aid through. He said the move will be a "new test" for Venezuela's military.

The national security advisor to US President Donald Trump, John Bolton, late Saturday called on the Venezuelan military and on employees of the country's Central Bank to side with the opposition amid the ongoing political crisis.

Humanitarian aid from an "international coalition" would soon flow into Venezuela, which is facing rampant hunger and medicine shortages, from collection points in Brazil, Colombia and a Caribbean island, Guaido said.

He says most of the Venezuelan crude oil it buys goes to its Pascagoula refinery in Mississippi. "We want a better present and future and we are about to achieve that".

A swift end to the tumult appears unlikely as both Guaido and Maduro dig in for a protracted conflict with geopolitical dimensions. It is your right and responsibility to defend the constitution and democracy for Venezuela! Maduro has repeatedly blamed Washington for attempting a coup in Venezuela. Interior Minister Nestor Reverol said retired National Guard Col. Oswaldo Garcia Palomo was among those detained.

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He said: "Power is evaporating from Maduro's hands with the passing of the hours".

In a bid to pressure Maduro financially, Washington has imposed sweeping sanctions on state-owned oil firm PDVSA [PDVSA.UL], although these risk exacerbating the plight of ordinary citizens by curtailing hard currency necessary for imports.

Maduro has retained the support of powerful allies, including Russian Federation and China, but he is growing increasingly isolated as more nations back Guaido.

Maduro's remarks come after the US declared Guaido as the legitimate leader, while European Union member states are expected to follow suit next week.

Mr Guaido has called for a new, fair presidential election after the disputed vote won by Mr Maduro previous year.

The bloc did not come out in support of Guaido after a meeting of foreign ministers in Bucharest, Romania, to discuss the crisis, but European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini announced the establishment of a 90-day global conduct group with European Union and Latin American states to "promote common understanding aiming at a peaceful and democratic outcome".

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