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Tension Continues To Run High in Venezuela, Maduro and Guaido Vying For Military Support

"We're not a weak country but one with strong armed forces that has to show itself as united and cohesive as ever. Say no to traitors! Out, traitors! Unity and supreme loyalty to the constitution, the fatherland, the revolution and to its legitimate commander-in-chief!"

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Venezuela
Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro poses for a photo with soldiers during his visit to a military training center in El Pao, Venezuela, May 4, 2019. VOA

Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido says he thought more troops would turn against President Nicolas Maduro during Tuesday’s attempt to oust the embattled leader.

In an interview with The Washington Post, Guaido said he expected Maduro to step down following major defections of members of the military. But, as Maduro and Guaido were vying for military support, there were no mass breakaways in the ranks.

Tension continues to run high in Venezuela since the failed effort to oust Maduro. The Lima Group, a 12-nation body formed in 2017 to help establish a peaceful end to the Venezuelan crisis, met Friday in Peru’s capital and decided to enlist Cuba in brokering a solution to the turmoil.

On Saturday, Maduro appealed to the military on state television.

“We’re not a weak country but one with strong armed forces that has to show itself as united and cohesive as ever. Say no to traitors! Out, traitors! Unity and supreme loyalty to the constitution, the fatherland, the revolution and to its legitimate commander-in-chief!” he said, asking soldiers to raise their weapons in the air.

A man with his body painted in the Venezuelan national flag's colors demonstrates in front of riot police during an opposition demonstration calling for the armed forces to disobey Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, near La Carlota Air Base in Caracas, May 4, 2019.
A man with his body painted in the Venezuelan national flag’s colors demonstrates in front of riot police during an opposition demonstration calling for the armed forces to disobey Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, near La Carlota Air Base in Caracas, May 4, 2019. VOA

Later, Maduro visited a military base for a third straight day, hoping to garner support from troops. State television showed him walking with hundreds of uniformed soldiers after commanders briefed him on military issues. There were 3,500 soldiers at the site, according to state television.

Maduro wrote on Twitter Friday night that he’d met with generals and admirals who vowed to defend “national sovereignty with loyalty and patriotism.”

Guaido is considered Venezuela’s legitimate leader by the U.S. and 50 other countries. On Friday, he said supporters would hand out a letter to members of the military at a nationwide protest on Saturday, calling on them to support Maduro’s ouster. But that did not appear to be a successful effort. One soldier took the memo handed to him and burned it.

A plot for some of Maduro’s top aides to defect this week to the opposition appeared to have come apart at the last minute, according to several news reports.

Weeks of secret talks between the top aides and opposition leaders — including recently freed Leopoldo Lopez — culminated in a document that guaranteed Maduro loyalists like Gen. Ivan Hernandez, chief of military counterintelligence; Defense Minister Vladamir Padrino Lopez; and Supreme Court Chief Justice Maikel Moreno places in a post-Maduro interim government and a promise that they wouldn’t be prosecuted, the Associated Press reported Saturday.

Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro drives a vehicle during his visit to a military training center in El Pao, Venezuela, May 4, 2019.
Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro drives a vehicle during his visit to a military training center in El Pao, Venezuela, May 4, 2019. VOA

All three officials have remained publicly loyal to Maduro. A fourth top aide, who heads Venezuela’s intelligence agency, Gen. Manuel Figuera, did break ranks and has since disappeared, according to the AP.

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Lopez, a Guaido mentor who had been detained since 2014 and under house arrest since 2017 for organizing marches against Maduro, told the AP that he had been secretly speaking with top Maduro loyalists about their possible defection to the opposition for weeks.

One former U.S. official who spoke to the AP on background suggested that distrust between Trump administration officials and Maduro’s inner circle contributed to top Maduro aides’ reluctance to abandon the embattled Venezuelan leader. VOA

Next Story

As Venezuela’s Healthcare Collapses, Women and Girls Dying Needlessly

The surgeon is one of only three left at the Concepcion Palacios hospital in the Venezuelan capital

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Venezuela, Healthcare, Pregnant Women
Venezuelan girls beg for change where Venezuelans cross illegally into Colombia near the Simon Bolivar International Bridge, April 14, 2019. VOA

In Caracas’s main maternity hospital the blood banks and medicine cabinets are empty, the power and water regularly cut out — and women and girls are dying needlessly, according to one of the few remaining doctors, Luisangela Correa.

The surgeon is one of only three left at the Concepcion Palacios hospital in the Venezuelan capital, where the lifts and most toilets are closed and there are no bandages, sterilizers or X-ray services.

“We are like trapped, kept hostage by this situation … hope is what keeps us here,” Correa, 45, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

“If we haven’t left the hospital, it’s because we hope that things will improve.”

Venezuela, Healthcare, Pregnant Women
A Venezuelan migrant woman holds a baby outside an immigration processing office on the Rumichaca bridge after crossing the border from Colombia to Rumichaca, Ecuador, June 12, 2019. VOA

One in four have left

Millions of Venezuelans have fled the country to escape an economic and political crisis that has left about seven million — one in four — in need of humanitarian aid, according to the United Nations.

Its human rights chief Michelle Bachelet said last week after a three-day mission in March to the troubled South American country that Venezuela’s healthcare sector was in “critical condition.”

A lack of basic medicine and equipment was “causing preventable deaths,” she said — something Correa is witnessing at first hand.

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Infection rates at the maternity hospital are high because cleaners do not have disinfectants to wash away bacteria and there are no sterilizers for doctors to clean their equipment, she said.

“Currently, maternity is a risk for Venezuelan women, as it is for babies … many give birth at home, in the street,” Correa said.

“And there are no blood banks. Any complications from heavy bleeding is a very big risk of death for a patient.”

Correa, the U.N. and women’s rights groups all said unsanitary hospital conditions along with food and medical shortages had led to a rise in maternal mortality rates.

Venezuela, Healthcare, Pregnant Women
In Caracas’s main maternity hospital the blood banks and medicine cabinets are empty. VOA

U.N. findings disputed

The Venezuelan government disputed the findings of the U.N. report and said in a written response that maternal mortality rates had decreased by nearly 14% between 2016 and 2018.

Venezuela’s national healthcare system, once considered a model for Latin America, is now plagued by shortages of imported drugs and thousands of doctors and nurses no longer show up for work, their salaries ravaged by inflation.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has said there is little need for humanitarian aid, blaming U.S. sanctions for the oil-rich country’s economic problems.

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The United States imposed tough sanctions on Venezuela’s oil industry in January in an effort to oust Maduro in favor of opposition leader Juan Guaido, who is recognized as Venezuela’s rightful leader by more than 50 governments.

‘100% shortage’

CEPAZ, a coalition of women’s rights groups, has said Venezuela’s maternal mortality rates have increased by 65% from 2013 to 2016, with nearly 800 women dying.

Bachelet’s report cited a national survey that showed 1,557 people died due to lack of supplies in hospitals between November 2018 and February 2019.

Correa said she was seeing more pregnant teenage girls seeking care because they cannot find or afford contraception and do not receive sex education in schools.

According to the U.N. report, teenage pregnancies have risen by 65% since 2015, and several cities in Venezuela face a “100% shortage” of all types of contraception.

Strict abortion law

Due to Venezuela’s strict abortion law, which only allows the procedure under limited circumstances, some women and girls resort to unsafe abortions.

This has contributed to a rise in preventable maternal mortality, with about 20% of maternal deaths reportedly linked to unsafe abortions, the U.N. said in its report.

Correa says she is determined to continue to speak out about the dire conditions in public hospitals and help women in need. “The only thing we have are the outcries and hope that this will change,” she said. “My people, my country need me at this moment.” (VOA)