Venezuela’s Guaido Says 600 Military Officers Have Abandoned Maduro

By Reuters
March 1, 2019World News
Venezuela’s Guaido Says 600 Military Officers Have Abandoned Maduro
Venezuela's opposition leader Juan Guaido, who many nations have recognised as the country's rightful interim ruler looks on while attending a joint press conference with Paraguay President Mario Abdo Benitez at the Lopez Palace in Asuncion, Paraguay, on March 1, 2019. (Jorge Adorno/Reuters)

ASUNCION, Paraguay–On a March 1 visit to Paraguay to raise support for a change of government in his country, Venezuelan interim president leader Juan Guaido said 600 members of the military had abandoned illegitimate socialist dictator President Nicolas Maduro in recent days.

Venezuela’s National Assembly declared Maduro a usurper in January and invoked the constitution to hand the interim presidency to Guaido. The United States and 50 Western nations have since recognized Guaido as the legitimate leader.

However, Maduro still has the loyalty of most of Venezuela’s armed forces and controls state institutions.

“In the next few hours we will announce new protest marches,” Guaido said in Asuncion at a news conference, after meeting with Paraguayan leader Mario Abdo, who welcomed Guaido as the 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.”

Guaido’s press team said he was scheduled to visit Argentina later on March 1 to meet with President Mauricio Macri, a strong critic of Maduro. In a speech earlier on Feb. 28, 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 Guaido would hold a news conference there.

Guaido has been traveling around the region, seeking to drum-up support. He has visited Brazil and Colombia this week but said he would return to Caracas by March 4, 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 Guaido, has imposed fresh sanctions on March 1 on six Venezuelan security officials and revoked the visas of dozens of associates and their families with ties to Maduro.

Reporting by Daniela Desantis, writing by Hugh Bronstein, editing by Matthew Lewis and Rosalba O’Brien.

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