Maduro supporters rally in Venezuela; US, Russia push rival UN resolutions


Thousands of supporters of Venezuela’s government marked Wednesday’s 30th anniversary of the start of the Caracazo uprising with a demonstration in this capital that also served as a show of support for embattled leftist President Nicolas Maduro .

Diosdado Cabello, the No. 2 figure in the ruling PSUV party, was the lead speaker at the event in the absence of Maduro, who referred to the Caracazo in a tweet but did not mention the rally in Petare, a large shantytown on Caracas’ outskirts.

“Feb. 27. Yes, it all started there. Three years later, we rose up at an (army) barracks with a giant in the lead,” Cabello said in reference to a Feb. 4, 1992, attempted coup led by Hugo Chavez , who eventually took power via the ballot box and was Venezuela’s president from 1999 until his death from cancer in 2013.

On Feb. 27, 1989, thousands of Venezuelans protested on the streets of Caracas and the nearby city of Guarenas against steady price increases and a decline in purchasing power.

The protests devolved into widespread violence and looting, and the subsequent crackdown by security forces left more than 270 dead, according to official figures; Cabello, however, said Wednesday that at least 3,600 protesters lost their lives in clashes with security forces.

Participants in the rally reiterated their support for Maduro, who presides over an oil-rich country that has been racked for years by food and medicine shortages and hyperinflation, in his struggle with self-proclaimed interim president Juan Guaido.

The United States and several leading Latin American and European nations who consider Maduro’s 2018 re-election victory as fraudulent have recognized Guaido, the speaker of the opposition-led National Assembly, as Venezuela’s legitimate head of state.

Several dozen other countries, including Russia, China and India, continue to recognize Maduro.

The US recently imposed crippling sanctions on Venezuela’s oil industry, which Maduro says is the latest move in a longstanding economic war against the Caribbean nation.

Guaido is trying to spearhead efforts to bring humanitarian aid into Venezuela from Colombia and Brazil; Maduro’s government, however, says that aid is a Trojan horse that would pave the way for a US-led military intervention and has refused to let it enter.

The United Nations represents another front in the battle between Maduro and Guaido and their respective patrons have put conflicting resolutions on the situation in Venezuela in front of the Security Council.

Both the US and the Russian texts have been circulated among the 15 members and the council is likely to take up the competing resolutions in a single session on Thursday, diplomatic sources said.

The US draft, seen by EFE, calls for the start of a peaceful political process in Venezuela that leads to “free, fair and credible presidential elections” and urges UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to employ his “good offices” toward that end.

The document likewise insists on the need to avoid a worsening of the humanitarian situation in Venezuela and demands that the Maduro government allow the entry of US aid stockpiled in neighboring Brazil and Colombia.

Russia’s draft warns against the use of force against the Maduro administration and emphasizes the principles of national sovereignty and non-interference in countries’ domestic affairs.

To pass the Security Council, a resolution must secure nine votes, and the US draft appears capable of meeting that threshold.

But each of the five Permanent Members - the US, Russia, China, France and Britain - has the power to veto a resolution and Moscow is sure to block Washington’s text.

Guaido, who traveled to Colombia last week for the attempted aid delivery, is due to visit Brazil on Thursday for talks with Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro.

It remains unclear when Guaido will return to Caracas.