Venezuela's Guaido starts domestic tour to stir support
Venezuela's self-proclaimed interim leader Juan Guaido began a tour of his country Saturday aimed at sparking a citizen's movement to pry President Nicolas Maduro from power.
As Guaido, 35, kicked off his campaign in the northern city of Valencia, the pro-Maduro military staged the latest in a series of exercises.
The drill focused on defending hydroelectric infrastructure from attack -- a reaction to a weeklong national blackout that Maduro blamed on US "sabotage" but experts said was more likely the result of years of neglect.
Guaido, the head of the opposition-ruled National Assembly whose claim to be caretaker president is recognized by the US and much of Latin America and Europe, vowed he would "very soon" take up office in Miraflores, the presidential palace.
"We are building a citizens' organization to end the usurption and for the conquest of our spaces," he said on Twitter.
He offered no timeline for the mobilization, which he said will culminate with a march on the presidential palace in Caracas.
Accompanying him on his tour are opposition lawmakers tasked with creating citizen assemblies across the country. The opposition said that, by Saturday, around 50 had already been set up in half of Venezuela's 23 states.
"Whatever happens, we must be united, mobilized in the streets," Guaido said, adding that he has not ruled out asking the National Assembly to activate a constitutional clause allowing foreign military intervention -- though such a move "depended on others."
- US sanctions -
That was taken as a reference to US military action, which US President Donald Trump has repeatedly refused to rule out, even though there is no sign such an operation is being mounted and US allies in Latin America oppose the idea.
Instead, Washington has ratcheted up sanctions on Venezuela. That has made an already dire economic situation in the country worse, while increasing pressure on Maduro.
On April 28, a US embargo on Venezuelan oil exports will go into effect, dealing a heavy blow to Venezuela's diminished finances, as America accounts for half of the oil exported.
A major barrier to Guaido's plan to wrest control of the country is the military, which has so far remained loyal to Maduro, who has put generals in charge of lucrative civilian agencies and institutions.
Guaido has offered amnesties to soldiers who abandon Maduro.
As has become common when the opposition holds an event, pro-Maduro crowds surged into the streets of central Caracas.
On Saturday, they cried "victory" to Maduro's claim that he had beaten back a "cybernetic" attack by the US on the electricity grid. Although the government insisted power had been restored to all of Venezuela, some western regions reported outages.
Maduro on Friday announced the creation of a special military unit to protect electricity facilities and other "strategic services."
? 2019 AFP