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.
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.
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.
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