Venezuelan air force general recognizes Guaido as acting president


A Venezuelan air force general said in a video disseminated Saturday that he recognizes the leader of the country’s opposition-led National Assembly, Juan Guaido, as acting president.

Guaido proclaimed himself as Venezuela’s legitimate leader on Jan. 23 and has been formally recognized as such by the United States, several Latin American countries and the European Parliament.

Spain, Germany, France and the United Kingdom also say they will recognize Guaido if leftist President Nicolas Maduro does not announce snap elections by Sunday.

“I appear before you to state that I do not recognize the invalid and dictatorial authority of Nicolas Maduro and I recognize lawmaker Juan Guaido as acting president,” Gen. Francisco Esteban Yanez Rodriguez said in a video shared on social media by opposition lawmaker Luis Florido.

The general, who still is listed on the Venezuelan air force’s Web site as director of strategic planning, also said in the video that the country’s armed forces have been repeatedly warned not to declare their support for Guaido.

“People of Venezuela, 90 percent of the armed forces are not with the dictator. They’re with the people of Venezuela. Given the events of recent hours, the transition, democracy, is imminent,” he added.

Yanez Rodriguez urged his military colleagues to support Guaido as president and called on them to stop “repressing” the people of Venezuela.

He also urged the population to heed the opposition’s call for mass demonstrations on Saturday and peacefully take to the streets to show their support for Guaido.

Government supporters also will hold a demonstration on Saturday to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the first inauguration of Hugo Chavez , Maduro’s political mentor and predecessor.

The pro- and anti-Maduro demonstrators were not expected to cross paths because the former are scheduled to rally in downtown Caracas and the latter on the capital’s east side.

On Jan. 21, around 30 National Guard troops staged a revolt in Caracas, although their mutiny was quickly suppressed.

That action occurred after the National Assembly (unicameral legislature) approved an amnesty law for civilian and military officials who break with Maduro and help restore democratic rule, which the opposition says has been crushed.

That legislative step was aimed at winning the support of the military, the ultimate power brokers in that oil-rich country.

Maduro, who in 2017 effectively sidelined the National Assembly by creating a new plenipotentiary body, won a second term in office last year. The opposition boycotted that balloting, saying the process was fraudulent.

Venezuela, which also faces an acute economic crisis, has seen the exodus of millions of people in recent years due to severe food and medicine shortages and hyperinflation.