Why Venezuela military leaders are standing behind Maduro

Anna Jefferson
January 26, 2019

Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro can foil possible USA plans for military intervention in the country, if there are no provocations against USA diplomats and bloodshed among protesters, Viktor Semenov, an expert at the Russian Academy of Sciences' Institute for Latin American Studies, told TASS on Friday.

The U.S. embassy in Caracas, Venezuela.

The Trump administration says Maduro's order isn't legal because the U.S.no longer recognizes him as Venezuela's legitimate leader. US -backed opposition leader Juan Guaido - who serves as head of the National Assembly - declared himself president Wednesday. Venezuela's incumbent President Nicolas Maduro described these developments as an attempted coup and said he was breaking diplomatic ties with the US.

As Interim President Guaido noted yesterday: "Violence is the usurper's weapon; we only have one clear action: to remain united and firm for a democratic and free Venezuela, '" Trump said.

The United States and Britain said on Thursday that Venezuela's Nicolas Maduro is not legitimate, while Russian Federation and Turkey expressed their support to the legal authorities.

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The Trump administration ordered all non-essential American diplomatic staff and government personnel in Venezuela to leave the South American nation, which has been roiled by escalating political unrest.

It was the latest worldwide crisis to split the global superpowers, with the United States and Europe backing Guaido, and Russian Federation and China urging noninterference.

Eight generals who command of strategic regions of the country reiterated their "absolute loyalty and subordination" to the socialist leader in messages carried on state television.

The European Union, which has imposed sanctions on Venezuela and boycotted Maduro's swearing-in, has been more cautious, stopping short of following Washington in recognizing the 35-year-old Guaido as acting president.

Guaido's declaration takes Venezuela into uncharted territory, with the possibility of the opposition now running a parallel government recognised overseas as legitimate but without control over state functions.

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He pointed to "complicated and severe external environment", effectively acknowledging the effect of Washington's trade conflict. In the three months to December, the economy grew 6.4% from a year earlier, down from 6.5% in the previous quarter.

Colina, the former army lieutenant, said even though many rank-and-file troops are going hungry like countless other Venezuelans, they don't have effective leadership to challenge superiors, meaning it's likely they'll opt for the status quo.

Meanwhile, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Thursday asked security forces to protect the "personal integrity" of the self-proclaimed Venezuelan president and announced $20 million in US humanitarian aid for the Venezuelan "people".

Guaido has said he needs the backing of three critical groups: The people, the worldwide community and the military.

Gunfire during the protests and looting left 21 dead between Wednesday and early Thursday in the capital of Caracas and throughout the country, according to Marco Ponce, coordinator of the nonprofit Venezuelan Observatory of Social Conflict.

They pointed to Venezuela's constitution, which says in the event the presidency is determined to be vacant, elections should be called within 30 days, and the head of the congress should assume control of the government.

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Many Venezuelans are awaiting Guaido's guidance on the often-beleaguered opposition's next steps.

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