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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

Health System Failure for Cancer Patients in Venezuela

Last year, about 4,700 women in Venezuela became ill with breast cancer, according to the Anticancer Society of Venezuela

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Cancer
Cancer Patients are not just afraid of the disease itself, but they also fear dying because they cannot find or afford the necessary treatment. Pixabay

A breast cancer diagnosis is terrifying enough at any time. But for 49-year-old Grecia Solis, the arduous choices faced by all cancer patients were complicated by the crippling decline of Venezuela’s public health facilities.

After her diagnosis two years ago, doctors recommended surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy. Before the oil-producing nation’s steep economic decline of recent years, those services would have been available free of charge or for a nominal fee at a state-run public hospital.

But trained staff, medicines and equipment are in such short supply at those facilities today that a public hospital was no longer an option. Instead, Solis was forced to borrow money from family and friends to pay for her operation at a privately run, for-profit clinic.

Her operation, performed in May 2018, cost her $500, a modest amount by U.S. standards, but a huge sum in Venezuela where hyperinflation has ravaged most people’s savings. With additional financial help from a sister in Ecuador, Solis was able to pay for the recommended eight sessions of chemotherapy, which were completed in December.

Solis’ story is a common one among cancer patients in Venezuela. Patients are not just afraid of the disease itself, but they also fear dying because they cannot find or afford the necessary treatment.

Last year, about 4,700 women in Venezuela became ill with breast cancer, according to the Anticancer Society of Venezuela, although the nation’s health ministry has not produced official figures since 2012. The society reported 2,300 women died last year from the disease, one of the leading causes of cancer deaths among Venezuelan women.

Cancer
A breast cancer diagnosis is terrifying enough at any time. Pixabay

Senos Ayuda, an NGO that supports breast cancer patients, estimates the number of patients are even higher, at almost 7,000 a year. And it stresses that treatment, medicine and doctors are becoming ever less accessible with the deepening of the nation’s humanitarian emergency.

The problem is part of a wider crisis in public health facilities. According to several Venezuelan doctors’ organizations, 73% of the country’s operating rooms are out of service or lack supplies and have unsanitary conditions.

A survey conducted by the organization Doctors for Health indicated that 90% of radiotherapy facilities are inoperative, 94% of health centers cannot take an X-ray, and 88% of hospitals have insufficient supplies and medicines. The Anticancer Society of Venezuela has reported that 80% of public radiotherapy equipment has been inoperative in the last year.

Solis says she is frustrated the government of President Nicolas Maduro does not accept that Venezuela is in a humanitarian crisis and has done little to address the problem, leading to avoidable cancer deaths.

Cancer
Since 2018, 400,700 women in Venezuela have been diagnosed with Breast Cancer. According to the Anti-Cancer Society in Venezuela, getting an accurate numbers of patients is unlikely. Since 2012, the Ministry of Health does not offer official figures. VOA

Another patient, 58-year-old Algeria Dias, was diagnosed with a breast tumor in August 2017. She was able to afford treatment with the help of family, donations, some government help and the sale of the family car, but she says she now she spends every day “going from clinic to clinic, public and private, and see if they have the space or equipment I need to monitor my disease.”

For her part, Solis says she is running out time. She has until December to raise $5,000 to pay for more than 30 additional radiotherapy sessions to prevent the likely return of her cancer.

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“Cancer does not wait. Cancer does not warn and when you have it, it overtakes you. It hurts having the uncertainty of not knowing if you can say, “I am a cancer survivor,” she said. (VOA)