Venezuela's opposition to up pressure on Maduro with new rally

2 Feb 2019

Opposition leader Juan Guaido appealed to his countrymen to take to the streets at the weekend for "the biggest march in the history of Venezuela" in a bid to rachet up pressure on embattled President Nicolas Maduro to call early elections.
Major European countries have set a weekend deadline for Maduro to call such elections or they will join the United States in recognising Guaido, the speaker of the national assembly, as Venezuela's interim president.
"Nicolas Maduro will do well not to test the resolve of the United States of America. Maduro's tyranny must end and must end now," US Vice President Mike Pence warned at a rally of Venezuelan exiles in Miami.
Saturday's march will coincide with the ruling Socialist party's celebration of the 20th anniversary of the rise to power of Hugo Chavez, Maduro's deceased predecessor.
Guaido warned in a letter to the presidents of Mexico and Uruguay published Friday that he would only enter into negotiations if they serve to "start the transition process, culminating in the holding of free elections."
Mexico's Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador and Uruguay's Tabare Vazquez have jointly called a conference in Montevideo next Thursday for "neutral" countries to discuss the crisis.
Previous negotiations all had the same "unsatisfactory result," Guaido wrote. "The dictatorship of Nicolas Maduro has not changed its position. They have mocked the Venezuelan people to their face."
Guaido called Saturday's rally to coincide with one convened by government supporters to mark the late Chavez's assumption of office as Venezuela's president February 2, 1999 at the head of a socialist movement.
"We must all take to the streets of Venezuela and the world with a clear goal: to accompany the ultimatum given by members of the European Union," Guaido said Thursday.
"We are going to stage the biggest march in the history of Venezuela and our continent," he added.
In a speech at Caracas university, he said elite security forces went to his home to threaten his family, blaming the government of Maduro.
The move heightened fears for the security of the 35-year-old National Assembly leader, who declared himself acting president last week in a bold challenge to Maduro's authority.
Earlier, European lawmakers recognised Guaido as the acting head of state - another step forward in his bid to force out the socialist leader who has presided over the oil-rich country's economic collapse.
Several opposition leaders have been jailed in recent years as Maduro cracked down on growing dissent in the Latin American country.(AFP)