By Denis Duettmann (dpa)
HAVANA TIMES – For weeks now, Juan Guaido has fought a fierce battle for power with Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro; now the self-proclaimed interim president wants to increase the pressure with major demonstrations all over the country.
“Hard days are coming. The regime will try to split us,” said Guaido at a rally on Saturday in Caracas. “In this fight, it is fundamental that we continue to take to the streets.”
Venezuelan security forces had previously tried to halt the protesters on the Avenida Victoria in the center of the capital, with rapid reaction police also blocking streets and not letting the demonstrators pass, as television footage showed.
“We live in a dictatorship; we want democracy,” a protester said on the Venezuelan broadcaster TVV.
According to media reports, the officers also used some pepper spray.
Guaido declared himself interim president on January 23 and challenged President Maduro.
The re-election of the socialist leader last year did not conform to democratic norms, according to Guaido.
Germany, the United States, numerous EU countries and many Latin American countries have already recognized Guaido as the rightful transitional president.
Head of state Maduro drummed up support among his followers.
“Today we are – more than ever before – anti-imperialists,” he tweeted. “We will never give up.”
His supporters marched through the center of the city to the presidential palace of Miraflores.
“We are a people who resist. That is why we will leave the difficulties behind,” Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza said at the rally.
The president of the pro-government Constituent Assembly, Diosdado Cabello, pointed to the cohesion between the people and the armed forces. “This unit is getting stronger every day,” he said.
However, many Venezuelans are suffering under the catastrophic supply situation in the once rich country.
For lack of foreign currency, the world’s most oil-rich country can barely import food, medicines and everyday necessities for the needy.
Many people are starving, while over 3 million Venezuelans have already left their homeland.
Recently, a massive power outage largely paralysed the country. The government blamed a US-sponsored cyber attack on the main power station. The opposition, on the other hand, spoke of sloppiness, corruption and mismanagement.
“People are dying,” an angry demonstrator shouted at the officials at the demonstration on Saturday. “We are here because we are losing patience. Our food is rotting.”
Shorter power cuts are commonplace in Venezuela, but an outage lasting several days is unusual in the troubled country.
Because many hospitals were cut off from electricity, 79 people died, according to the opposition. The government has rejected this claim.
On Saturday there were already reports of a renewed power failure.
Although many people are dissatisfied with the situation in Venezuela and Guaido can count on broad international support, he does not have a strong enough power position to force a change of government.
And although Maduro is increasingly becoming an outsider on the world stage, at home he can continue to count on the support of the powerful military.
While Guaido recently travelled through the region to promote support for his counter-government, he now wants to increase the pressure on the streets again with new demonstrations. He announced plans to bring people from all over Venezuela to Caracas for further mass demonstrations.
The anger of many Venezuelans over the power outages could work in his favor. “For the darkness, the hunger and the misery to end, the unlawful seizure of power must cease,” he said at Saturday’s rally.