Guaido calls protest Thursday against Venezuela's Maduro

Caracas (AFP) –


Venezuela's opposition leader Juan Guaido called on supporters to rally Thursday against the government of President Nicolas Maduro in a bid to rekindle popular momentum against an "illegitimate" leader.

Guaido urged a new round of protests after he was sworn in earlier this week for another term as National Assembly speaker following a standoff with the armed forces.

Amid scepticism that he can still mobilize large crowds as at the height of his popularity a year ago, Guaido called for "citizen assemblies" on Thursday and Friday followed by a march to the parliament building on Saturday.

Crowds at regular protests have dwindled since tens of thousands crammed the streets in Caracas and other main cities in the first six months of last year.

Guaido's popularity plummeted after he failed to win the support of the armed forces in an attempted uprising last year.

The US-backed opposition leader had begun the year with 63 percent support after declaring himself interim president, recognized by more than 50 countries.

He ended 2019 with just 39 percent support, according to pollster Datanalisis.

Turnout at Thursday's gathering in eastern Caracas, scheduled to begin at 6:00 pm (2200 GMT) will be closely watched for signs of an opposition revival.

"We need the support of everyone to reach the objectives that we have fixed to achieve a free Venezuela," said Manuela Bolivar, a member of Guaido's Popular Will party, on Instagram.

Guaido's aides said he would not attend Thursday's rally, however.

His main focus will a march through the center of Caracas on Saturday.

Despite Venezuela's economic collapse and mass emigration, Maduro remains in power with the support of the armed forces and international backing from Russia, Cuba and China.