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Venezuelan air force general declares allegiance to Guaido

Venezuelan air force general declares allegiance to Guaido

In a brief phone conversation with The Associated Press, the officer confirmed, from a Colombian number, the veracity of his declaration and said he would not give further statements until given authorization by "the commander-in-chief of the legal armed force which is President Juan Guaido".

The military's support is crucial for the embattled Mr Maduro, who is deeply unpopular largely due to an unprecedented economic crisis that has prompted an exodus of millions.

The challenge to Maduro, Chavez's handpicked successor, is his most serious yet, with the United States, Canada and almost a dozen Latin American countries piling on pressure for his removal from office.

"[Guaido] was sworn in in front of the national assembly that was elected in fair elections and he is doing what he has to do according to our constitution", she said. Guaido said during the VOA interview he would order new elections "when we achieve the capacity to convene elections". Tens of thousands of people took to the streets of the Venezuelan capital on Saturday to join a pro-government demonstration to celebrate 20 years since the late Venezuelan president, Hugo Chavez, launched the Bolivarian revolution.

The opposition and a large segment of the worldwide community consider Maduro's reelection fraudulent, in part because the president's most popular adversaries were barred from running. Government supporters control the powerful Constituent Assembly.

Sarfatti encouraged Canadians to reach out to a Venezuelan to explain the country's position, and warned about "propaganda" that claims that Guaido is leading a coup against Maduro.

Gen. Francisco Yanez is the first high ranking officer to leave Maduro's government since January 23, when Guaido declared himself the country's legitimate leader by invoking two articles of the Venezuelan constitution that he argues give him the right to assume presidential powers.

As he announced his defection, Gen. Francisco Yanez called on other members of the military to defect.

"People of Venezuela, 90 percent of the armed forces of Venezuela are not with the dictator, they are with the people of Venezuela", Yanez said in the video.

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"Given the happenings of the last few hours, already the transition to democracy is imminent".

Venezuela's aerospace command of the armed forces shared a picture of Yanez on its Twitter account with the words "traitor" above it. The previously little-known 35-year old industrial engineer has offered the military and public officials amnesty if they defect. "We want a better present and future and we are about to achieve that".

President Nicolas Maduro and first lady Cilia Flores greet supporters as they arrive at a rally in Caracas, Venezuela, Feb. 2, 2019.

In a country where the socialist leader's foes often end up behind bars, Guaido has thus far managed to avoid arrest, but in recent days authorities have let it be known that even as his powerful worldwide support grows Guaido isn't untouchable.

Guaido told supporters Saturday that the opposition would start collecting humanitarian aid in Brazil, Colombia and an unnamed Caribbean island, and he called on the military to allow the aid into the country.

It is unclear whether Maduro's government, which denies the country is suffering a humanitarian crisis, will let any foreign aid through. "It won't be an easy task".

Maduro's adversaries say he has run roughshod over democratic institutions and destroyed the once-buoyant economy through a corruption-riddled exchange control system and arbitrary nationalizations.

China, Russia and Turkey are among the countries that have voiced support for Maduro.

In a bid to pressure Maduro financially, Washington has imposed sweeping sanctions on state-owned oil firm PDVSA [PDVSA.UL], although these risk exacerbating the plight of ordinary citizens by curtailing hard currency necessary for imports.


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