Venezuela: Maduro foe’s next step awaited as power crisis deepens

Venezuela: Maduro foe’s next step awaited as power crisis deepens, by AP.

All eyes were on Juan Guaido’s next step after the popular Venezuelan opposition leader declared he was temporarily assuming presidential powers in a high-stakes bid to unseat Nicolas Maduro, whose powerful loyalists went on the offensive Thursday in support of the embattled leader.

Guaido has disappeared from view since swearing before tens of thousands of cheering supporters to uphold the constitution and rid Venezuela of Maduro’s dictatorship, and his whereabouts remained shrouded in mystery. …

Attention has been on the military, a traditional arbiter of political disputes in Venezuela, as a critical indicator of whether the opposition will succeed in establishing a new government. Venezuela’s top military brass pledged their unwavering support to Maduro, delivering vows of loyalty earlier Thursday before rows of green-uniformed officers on state television. …

Life in the capital appeared to be returning to normal Thursday after mass anti-government demonstrations a day earlier that left at least a dozen dead in the escalating conflict with Maduro, who has been increasingly accused of undemocratic behavior by the United States and many other nations in the region.

Guaido, 35, turned up the heat by declaring himself interim president on Wednesday before a mass of demonstrators in Caracas. He said it was the only way to end the Maduro “dictatorship” in Venezuela, which has seen millions flee in recent years to escape sky-high inflation and food shortages. …

Guaido has said he needs the backing of three critical groups: The people, the international community and the military. While yesterday’s protest drew tens of thousands to the streets and over a dozen nations in the region are pledging support, the military’s backing is far from certain.

Though many rank-and-file troops suffer the same hardships as countless other Venezuelans when it comes to meeting basic needs like feeding their families, Maduro has worked to cement their support with bonuses and other special benefits.

In a video addressing the military earlier this week, Guiado said the constitution requires them to disavow Maduro after his May 2018 re-election, which was widely condemned by the international community because his main opponents were banned from running. …

Much of the international community is rallying behind Guaido, with the U.S., Canada and numerous Latin American and European countries announcing that they recognized his claim to the presidency. President Donald Trump promised to use the “full weight” of U.S. economic and diplomatic power to push for the restoration of Venezuela’s democracy.

AOC could not be reached for comment.