Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido’s populatity has slumped after a failed uprising against President Nicolas Maduro he has blamed on supporters who ‘failed to follow through’.
But he quickly added during an interview in Caracas that it ‘doesn’t mean they won’t do it soon’.
Guaido, who is recognised as Venezuela’s interim president by more than 50 countries, said it was ‘obvious today, there is widespread discontent from which the armed forces aren’t immune’.
Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido (pictured addressing reporters yesterday) has blamed unsuccessful uprisings against President Nicolas Maduro on supporters
Yet despite his slogan ‘vamos bien’, which means we’re doing well, a poll has found Guaido’s approval rating has plummeted from 84 per cent in January to just 50 per cent.
Caracas-based Meganalisis found he is more popular than Maduro – whose approval rating is 4 per cent, but the huge drop is still alarming.
Guaido has blamed the failure of last week’s uprising on unkept promises by some members of the armed forces.
‘There have been discussions… with civil and military officials who are ready to take the side of our constitution,’ he said.
‘I’m very optimistic given that we are very close to achieving change in Venezuela.’
The 35-year-old National Assembly chief has branded Maduro a usurper over his controversial re-election last year.
Guaido has said the failure lay at the hands of unkept promises from some armed forces members
In January, Guaido declared himself acting president, plunging Venezuela into a political crisis that deepened its economic woes.
But Maduro has held firm, bolstered by the continued support of the powerful armed forces.
Guaido has expressed the hope the army would eventually come on board.
‘We are waiting for many more to join in expressing their discontent and to participate in ‘Operation Freedom,” he said.
Of those that did, 25 soldiers sought refuge in the Brazilian embassy later in the day.
‘Today, all that needs to happen is for the armed forces and certain [public sector] employees to overcome their fear,’ said Guaido.
Maduro – who has said Guaido is a puppet of Washington – has sought to show that the military remains on his side, but opposition leaders and US officials have said that support is tenuous.
‘They sat back in the barracks and they’re there, but they don’t want to be identified as the institutional source of repression,’ an official said.
In a dramatic update, US Vice President Mike Pence reportedly laid out plans to offer new incentives to Venezuela’s military to turn against President Nicolas Maduro.
US Vice President Mike Pence (pictured on Monday at at the Satellite Conference and Exhibition in Washington) reportedly laid out plans to get Venezuela’s military to turn against Maduro
In a speech to the Americas Society at the State Department at 3.25pm local time, Pence was said to have warned the US will soon move to sanction 25 additional magistrates on Venezuela’s supreme court.
Pence also offered assistance for refugees who have fled the country, and an economic aid package contingent on a political transition.
Pence’s speech will be the first look at the Trump administration’s new strategy following the massive street protests in Venezuela last week.
President Donald Trump has invested considerable political capital in the diplomatic and economic intervention in the Venezuela crisis.
Pence was said to be prepared to offer new ‘carrots’ to the Venezuelan military, a senior official said, declining to provide details of the incentives ahead of the speech.
‘He’ll be showing where the opportunities lay if people do the right thing moving forward,’ the official said.
Pence is also set to outline new assistance for Venezuelans who have fled the oil-rich OPEC member, which has been plagued by hyperinflation and shortages of food, water, power and medicine – and a ‘Day One’ economic assistance plan for Venezuela contingent on Maduro’s departure, the official added.
The vice president in addition will deliver a ‘warning shot’ to magistrates on Venezuela’s supreme court.
The Treasury Department sanctioned the court’s president, Maikel Moreno, in 2017 and the seven principal members of its constitutional chamber – and is now preparing to sanction the 25 remaining members of the court, the official said.
‘We feel like that’s where the pressure needs to be,’ according to the official.
‘All 32 magistrates in the TSJ are going to sink or swim together,’ the official said, using the acronym for Tribunal Supremo de Justicia.
The court would be responsible for signing off on any warrant for an arrest of Guaido – a move the U.S. official emphasised would have severe consequences.
The US imposed sweeping sanctions on Venezuela’s state-owned oil company, PDVSA, in January. Oil provides 90 per cent of export revenue for Venezuela.
The administration also continues to work on other responses to increase financial pressure on Maduro, including ‘secondary sanctions’ on companies from other countries that do business with Venezuela, and additional shipping sanctions for oil, the official said.
Maduro has been getting ‘weaker and weaker’ after years of protests against his regime, Guaido told reporters yesterday.
He claimed it paints a picture of a leader surrounded by the last of his support in his Miraflores presidential palace.
‘They say that Maduro is in Miraflores, but they also say that he’s in a bunker with a main security ring composed of Cubans and a second ring made up of soldiers from the Casa Militar,’ Guaido said, referring to Venezuela’s elite presidential protection corps.
An opponent to President Maduro holds a sign reading in Spanish ‘Next exit, Miraflores’, in reference to the Miraflores presidential palace on May 4. The president is reportedly held up there during the protests
‘He no longer trusts even in his high command, he doesn’t even have any trust in his environment.’
The attempted uprising last week set off two days of violent clashes between security forces and protesters that left five people dead, dozens injured and more than 233 arrested.
Authorities have also issued 18 arrest warrants against ‘civilians and military plotters,’ according to Attorney General Tarek William Saab.
Guaido has tried to keep up the pressure with massive street protests, but his latest call for demonstrations on Saturday drew only several hundred people.
He rejected suggestions that his opposition movement was flatlining, however.
‘On Saturday, I think the protest was fulfilled. A key goal for us was to redirect it toward non-violence,’ he said.
Meanwhile, Maduro appeared at a military exercise with Defence Minister Vladimir Padrino, who top US officials claimed was in on the attempted uprising but backed out.
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro (centre) poses for a picture with soldiers during a demonstration called ‘march of the military loyalty’
President Nicolas Maduro walks next to high commanders of the Armed Forces as he heads up a group of thousands of loyal soldiers during a demonstration
‘Loyal forever,’ Maduro bellowed to a crowd of soldiers and cadets who had joined him on the march of ‘loyalty’
‘I told the generals and admirals yesterday: loyalty, I want an active loyalty,’ Maduro said in a speech to some 5,000 troops that was broadcast nationally.
Tensions in Venezuela have soared since Guaido declared himself acting president.
As major world powers have been drawn in, the US has thrown its support behind Guaido, while China and Russia have backed Maduro.
Washington has repeatedly stated that ‘all options are on the table,’ including military intervention in Venezuela to help Guaido oust Maduro.
Without using such antagonistic language, Guaido said there could be a case to seek ‘foreign co-operation to overcome the unprecedented crisis Venezuela is going through.’
Asked about military intervention, he said only that it was a ‘controversial option.’
Five people died and 233 were arrested last week in protests sparked by the failed military uprising, Attorney General Tarek William Saab said yesterday.
An anti-government protester is detained by security forces during clashes with security forces in Caracas on May 1
Guaido insisted last week that Venezuela was ‘close to achieving freedom’ despite his promised ‘military uprising’ against President Maduro largely failing to materialise and instead descending into scattered violence
Two days of protests in the capital Caracas (pictured last week) failed to oust Maduro, largely because most senior military figures have remained loyal to his regime
‘All those cases are being investigated,’ Saab said in a television interview.
A small number of military personnel on April 30 joined opposition leader Juan Guaido outside an air base in the capital Caracas calling on those inside to join the rebellion.
The insurrection quickly petered out, though, and 25 rebel soldiers sought refuge in the Brazilian embassy.
Saab, a Maduro loyalist, confirmed that 18 arrest warrants were issued against ‘civilians and military plotters,’ although he gave no names.
Maduro has threatened to go after ‘traitors’ after crisis-wracked Venezuela’s military leadership reaffirmed its loyalty to the socialist president.
Venezuela’s Supreme Court on Thursday ordered the re-arrest of key opposition figure Leopoldo Lopez, who made a sensational appearance alongside Guaido outside the air base claiming to have been released from house arrest by soldiers.
A damaged gate is seen at the residence of opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez and his family, after unidentified government officials illegally entered the house, according to the family’s lawyer Omar Mora Tosta, in Caracas on May 2
The 48-year-old sought refuge in the Spanish ambassador’s residence.
Lopez was sentenced to 14 years in prison in 2014 after he was accused of inciting violent protests against Maduro, which left 43 people dead.
He was then transferred to house arrest in 2017.
On Wednesday, Lopez’s wife Lilian Tintori claimed their Caracas home had been broken into and ransacked while she was out.
Venezuela has suffered five years of recession that has seen more than 2.7million people flee poverty and insecurity since 2015, according to United Nations figures.
Of the 30million people left behind, the UN says almost a quarter are in desperate need of humanitarian aid.