CARACAS — Thousands of opposition protesters, led by Venezuela’s self-proclaimed acting president Juan Guaido, on Wednesday called on the armed forces to abandon President Nicolas Maduro and allow humanitarian aid into the crisis-wracked country.
The fight for freedom has begun.
People took to the streets in the capital Caracas and various other cities, banging pots, blowing whistles and horns, and carrying banners that read: “Armed forces, regain your dignity,” “Maduro usurper,” “Guaido, president” and “No to the dictatorship.”
“Don’t shoot people who are making demands also for your family,” Guaido said in a message to the military delivered from the central university in Caracas.
The 35-year-old National Assembly president, an engineer by training, is attempting to force the 56-year-old Maduro from power so he can set up a transitional government and hold new presidential elections.
Guaido quickly earned the support of the United States and several Latin American countries. Six major European nations have told Maduro to call those elections by the weekend or they too will recognize Guaido.
“Large protests all across Venezuela today against Maduro. The fight for freedom has begun!” US President Donald Trump tweeted after speaking with Guaido.
The political upheaval has exacerbated the general disarray in Venezuela, which has the world’s largest proven oil reserves but has suffered an economic meltdown marked by hyperinflation and shortages of basic necessities.
Millions have been left in poverty, while 2.3 million more have fled the country, unleashing a migration crisis in South America.