Juan Guaido, the self-appointed interim president of Venezuela, explained how he plains to win over the military’s support and put an end to Nicolas Maduro’s dictatorial rule.
Guaido, the 35-year-old president of the National Assembly of Venezuela, smashed onto the international scene on Feb. 23 when he stood before an opposition rally and declared himself the country’s legitimate president. In his speech, he accused Maduro’s election victory last year to be the result of vote rigging and widespread corruption.
The centrist opposition leader has made a concerted effort to speak to American media and make his case to international leaders that regime change is needed to heal Venezuela’s economic and humanitarian crisis.
“The despair, disillusionment, and frustration, has now become energy, strength, and a determination to fight. That’s why this is a pivotal moment for the future of our country,” Guaido said in a Time interview published on Friday, describing the groundswell of support to oust Maduro’s socialist regime.
Guaido is calling for Maduro — who recently “won” election to second six-year term — to step down and for another election to be held. However, one major obstacle stands in Guaido’s path: The Venezuelan military.
While the average Venezuelan citizen has suffered from famine, economic devastation and mass migration, members of the country’s military have still enjoyed major political influence. The more than 2,000 generals and 100,000 active members of the Venezuelan military still largely back the socialist regime. Their control has allowed Maduro to remain in power despite public support for him plummeting.
Nevertheless, the young opposition leader believes there is hope of turning leaders within the military. Guaido told Time that he has held secret meeting with military members and claims they are beginning to listening.
“No one is willing to sacrifice themselves for Maduro or take up arms to fight for him,” he explained, not believing the country will divulge into a civil war. “Increasingly, the obvious choice is to put it all aside.”
The U.S. government recognized Guaido’s legitimacy on the same day he declared himself president. Over a dozen other countries have followed suit, including the European Parliament and numerous Latin American governments.
Despite overwhelming support for the opposition among democratic counties, several high-profile Democrats blasted President Donald Trump’s decision to recognition of Guaido. Democratic Reps. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii and Ro Khanna of California were among the more progressive members of Congress who criticized the administration for supporting the centrist leader.
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