February 2, 2019 1:31 pm

Top Venezuelan general recognizes Juan Guaido as president, encourages military to defect

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Gen. Francisco Yanez of the Venezuelan Air Force’s high command is calling on the country’s armed forces to defect from President Nicolas Maduro and support National Assembly Leader Juan Guaido as interim president.

“People of Venezuela, 90 per cent of the armed forces of Venezuela are not with the dictator. They are with the people of Venezuela,” Yanez said in a video that circulated on Twitter Saturday.

The video was tweeted out among Venezuelan journalists and spread from there. The clip has been viewed almost 100,000 times so far.

“Given the happenings of the last few hours, already the transition to democracy is imminent,” the general says in the clip.

Yanez states in the video that most of the military has already disavowed Maduro, who claims the United States is attempting to wage a coup d’etat against his government.

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In response, the high command took to Twitter to accuse Yanez of treason. He is the first active Venezuelan general to recognize Guaido since the National Assembly leader named himself interim president on Jan. 23.

Opposition supporters are currently set to protest across Venezuela after several countries recognized Guaido as president and dismissed Maduro’s victory in a Jan. 10 election as illegitimate. Both Canada and the United States are backing Guaido, though the populist leader still has no control over state institutions or day-to-day governance.

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“We are going to send a very clear message in all the municipalities of Venezuela and in each city of the world. We are going to give a demonstration of strength, in a pacific and organized manner,” Guaido tweeted on Saturday.

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Maduro will also hold a rally on Saturday to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the first inauguration of his predecessor, the late socialist leader Hugo Chavez, which took place in 1999.

Russia and China, both key allies of Maduro’s government, are backing the socialist leader, though Guaido has reportedly sent letters to both administrations arguing that a change in government will be beneficial for both countries.

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The United States has imposed sanctions on the state-owned oil firm PDVSA in an attempt to force Maduro out of power.

Venezuela is currently dealing with a hyperinflation crisis and the mass migration of its citizens to neighbouring Latin American countries.

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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