Venezuela's Guaido tells Maduro 'pressure just beginning'

Roman Schwartz
March 8, 2019

View of a Venezuelan national flag reading S.O.S. during a rally with Venezuelan opposition leader and self-proclaimed acting president Juan Guaido upon his arrival in Caracas on March 4, 2019.

"Today more than ever, we are victorious against the conspiracy, against blackmail, while a insane minority continues with their hatred", he said in his first public comments since Juan Guaido's return.

Guaido has called on state officials, who have been historically pressured by the ruling Socialist Party to publicly back Maduro, to disavow the government, and has promised future amnesties for those that do.

"Public sector workers have lost practically all their rights, we have no other option but to call for a civic strike", said Guaido, without giving further details.

Venezuela is wracked by a humanitarian crisis that has seen poverty soar, with an estimated 2.7 million people leaving the country since 2015.

The US is slapping more sanctions on Maduro's government and ramping up the pressure for him to step down.

"The crazed minority continues in their bitterness". After his return to Venezuela, Guaido called a new round of anti-government protests for Saturday.

Guaido flouted a travel ban to tour Latin American countries to muster support for his plan for a transition government ahead of free and fair elections.

The pressure is just beginning.

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Once unknown, the 35-year-old has now gained the support of many Venezuelans and 65 foreign countries, including the U.S., Canada and U.K. He returned to Venezuela Monday after a trip overseas to rally support from the worldwide community.

The socialist government had kept unusually silent since Guaido landed, with no top officials commenting until Maduro spoke at the ceremony, held at the military barracks where Chavez launched a failed 1992 coup.

He has accused the opposition of trying to organise a coup with United States help.

"The worldwide community must unite and push for the end of Maduro's brutal regime and the peaceful restoration of democracy in Venezuela", U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said.

Mr Maduro also pinned medals on members of the security forces involved in a crackdown on Mr Guaido's failed February 23 attempt to bring humanitarian aid into Venezuela from Brazil and Colombia.

"That's ultimately a decision for Venezuelans to make", Mr Abrams said.

While worldwide pressure on the president has steadily increased - more than 50 countries, including the USA and most Latin American nations, have recognised Mr Guaido as interim leader - Maduro has dismissed all calls for him to step down.

On Tuesday, a national holiday, he met public sector union leaders.

Insisting there is no crisis, President Maduro has cut relations completely with Colombia and accuses the United States of planning an invasion.

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