Venezuela President Maduro, opposition leader compete for military support

OAN Newsroom
UPDATED 6:56 AM PT — Monday, January 28, 2019

Venezuela is ditching its plan to cut off diplomatic ties with the U.S. after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo refused to recall diplomats from the country.

On Saturday, Venezuela said the two countries agreed to keep an “Interest Office” open in their capitals as Caracas tries to reduce tensions with Washington.

“I have ordered the Foreign Minister to start talks, so as to have an Interests Office of the United States in Venezuela, with minimal personnel and also an office that represents the interests of Venezuela in Washington, like Cuba had when it didn’t have political, diplomatic, commercial relations with the United States,” announced Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.

The plan is for the new offices to open within a month. This comes just days after President Maduro told U.S. diplomats to leave over President Trump’s decision to recognize opposition leader Juan Guaido as the country’s interim leader. While Maduro lashed out at Pompeo in an interview Saturday, he said he’s still seeking to have dialogue with the White House.

FILE – In this Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2019 file photo, people gather during a protest against Venezuela’s Nicolas Maduro and in support of an opposition leader self-proclaimed as the interim president of the country in Madrid, Spain. Banners reads in Spanish: “Freedom” and “Out Maduro”. Venezuela has seen an enormous outflow of people in recent years as its economy and democratic institutions have crumbled. Now many of these Venezuelans living abroad are anxiously watching events unfold in Caracas and wondering if they may soon be able to go home. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)

The opposing leaders are now vying for international recognition as well as the loyalty of the Venezuelan military. Guaido spoke out on Sunday after attending a mass for those killed in recent demonstrations against President Nicolas Maduro.

“Venezuelan soldier, I’m talking to you — this is the moment to be on the constitution’s side,” he stated. “Soldier of Venezuela, today I give you an order: don’t’ shoot against the Venezuelan people, don’t shoot against those who in a clear and constitutional way have been defending your family, your people, your work, your way of life…don’t repress peaceful demonstrations like before.”

While many people have turned against Maduro, the military still remains loyal to him despite mounting evidence suggesting the country’s recent election was rigged. Maduro met with the military on Sunday as they conducted exercises in a show of force.

As the leader of the country’s Congress, however, Guaido said he should be the rightful president. He has called for a new round of protests on Wednesday and Sunday.