Venezuela's opposition to up pressure on Maduro | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, February 02, 2019 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, February 02, 2019

Venezuela's opposition to up pressure on Maduro

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 new bid to 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 recognizing Guaido, the speaker of the national assembly, as Venezuela's interim president.

"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.

He called the rally to coincide with one convened by government supporters to mark the 20th anniversary of the socialist movement founded by the late Hugo Chavez.

Guaido said elite security forces went to his home to threaten his family, blaming the government of Maduro as international support grew for his bid to oust the embattled president.

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.

The police's special action force, FAES, had gone to his home to interview his wife Fabiana Rosales, Guaido said during a speech at Caracas university.

"At this moment the dictatorship believes that it will intimidate us," Guaido said, his wife at his side.

Earlier, European lawmakers recognized 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, where resistance has escalated with Guaido's spectacular self-proclamation.

Previously unknown to the public at large, he has become the standard bearer of the opposition to Maduro, whether on the streets or on social networks.

Deprived almost entirely of coverage on mainstream media, Guaido has deftly used the social networks to woo support, but even that avenue is increasingly being cut off, and there is an explicit ban against talking about him.

The dramatic turn against Maduro's leftist regime culminated quickly, but it came after weeks of behind-the-scenes diplomacy including a hushed meeting in Washington with Guaido, who was quickly recognized by Washington as Venezuela's president.

While marshaling international support, Guaido is seeking to maintain street pressure against Maduro.

Venezuela's Supreme Court -- dominated by regime loyalists -- has frozen his assets and ordered him not to leave the country.

On Thursday, lawmakers at the European Parliament voted to accept Guaido as "legitimate interim president of the country" -- and urged the European Union to follow suit.

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