Venezuela’s Nicolas Maduro facing a ticking clock, new ambassador suggests
The lack of a violent crackdown against thousands of Venezuelans protesting the country’s disputed president is a “sign” the military there will soon oppose him, too.
In an interview with the West Block’s Mercedes Stephenson on what comes next for the political crisis in that country, the new ambassador to Canada named by interim Venezuelan president Juan Guaido says he believes the military’s response to the massive civilian opposition to Nicolas Maduro over the past month shows it is moving to “the right side of history.”
“On Feb. 2, about 2.5 million people protested and there was not any detention or any kind of repression of the people and that is a sign that the national forces in Venezuela is making a decision,” said Orlando Viera-Blanco, who become Venezuela’s ambassador to Canada on Jan. 31.
“I am sure right now they are moving to the right side of history.”
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Maduro was sworn in for a second term last month that was widely denounced as illegitimate given the lack of free and fair elections in the country, as well as for doing away with the Venezuelan constitution and moving the country from democracy to autocracy.
Guaido is the leader of a coalition of opposition parties that hold control of the Venezuelan National Assembly.
After Maduro declared himself president for a second term, Guaido announced he was declaring himself interim president until new elections could be held.
He received the support of dozens of democratic partners from across South America as well as Canada, the U.S., and European countries.
Their recognition of Guaido as interim president is contingent on him calling free elections within the month.
Doing so remains a challenge, though, because the Venezuelan military has not yet officially revoked its support for Maduro.
However, the military also has not cracked down on protesters or sought to detain or punish Guaido.
And there are signs a shift could be coming.
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Just days before Viera-Blanco was named ambassador, Venezuela’s top military attaché to the U.S. declared his allegiance to Guaido.
Last week, a top general from the Venezuelan air force also defected to support Guaido and urged others to do the same.
John Bolton, the U.S. national security advisor to the Trump administration, also came out with an offer to remove American sanctions from military officials who switch their allegiance to Guaido.
While Canadian officials say the government doesn’t view sanctions as a bargaining chip, they wouldn’t say specifically if Canada has or will make a similar offer.
Last week, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau committed $53 million to supporting Venezuelan refugees fleeing the political and economic crisis as well as to the neighbouring countries like Colombia and Brazil coping with the influx.
Viera-Blanco said getting Venezuela back on its feet will require a full restructuring of the state and that while he sees no signs so far that Maduro will willingly give up power, the choice may not be up to him.
“I am not seeing any government in history survive this kind of situation,” he said. “Even as a dictatorship.”
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