Amid mass arrests, Maduro won’t touch rival Guaido

More than 700 opponents of President Nicolas Maduro have been arrested during the latest push by Venezuela‘s opposition to oust the socialist leader.

But there’s one anti-government activist security forces notably haven’t touched: Juan Guaido, the lawmaker who declared himself interim president in a direct challenge to Maduro’s rule.

Maduro’s refusal, at least so far, to order Guaido’s arrest reflects mistrust in his own security forces as well as the Trump administration’s warning that any harm to the man the U.S. recognizes as Venezuela’s legitimate leader would be crossing a dangerous red line.

The U.S. administration reiterated that threat Monday in announcing sweeping sanctions against Venezuela’s state oil company.

Any actions taken against U.S. diplomats, Guaido or the National Assembly he presides over would be considered a “grave assault” that “will be met with a significant response,” U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton said.

While he didn’t specify what actions the U.S. might take, he reaffirmed that all options for dealing with Venezuela’s crisis remain on the table, including use of the military.

“They won’t dare touch Guaido,” said Jose Miguel Vivanco, Americas director at Human Rights Watch. “There’s a new dynamic at play. Even while Maduro’s government continues to brutally repress the poor and invisible, they won’t harm Guaido because he has so much international support.”

Maduro’s government on several occasions has threated to arrest the 35-year-old lawmaker, accusing him of violating the constitution and acting as a “puppet” of a U.S. coup attempt.

But every day that Guaido is allowed to move freely around Caracas, holding rallies and building a parallel government complete with foreign ambassadors and a presidential-looking office from which he delivers videotaped messages, he looks statelier and undermines Maduro’s authority in the eyes of ordinary Venezuelans, Vivanco said.

On Monday, a consular officer in Miami joined Venezuela’s military attache in Washington, Col. Jose Luis Silva, in ditching support for Maduro and recognizing Guaido.

“I’m always at the service of my beloved country. I’ll continue to provide consular services in Miami,” Scarlet Salazar said in a video announcing her allegiance to Guaido as she stood in front of a Venezuelan flag. “This is our country’s moment.”

It’s not clear what security precautions Guaido is taking to avoid arrest. But he’s not exactly been hard to find.

On Friday, he held a news conference in a Caracas plaza announced hours in advance on social media, and on Sunday he attended a church service for victims of anti-government unrest.

In both instances he spoke with a studied coolness, seemingly unconcerned about the enormous risks he was taking by openly defying Maduro. In 2014, his political mentor, Leopoldo Lopez, was arrested during an outdoor rally, and numerous other politicians, activists and even two small-town firefighters who published an online video mocking Maduro as a mule have been arrested over the past year.

Foro Penal, a local rights group, said Monday that in a single week of unrest more than 700 people have been detained. Another 35 have been killed during the unrest, many in poor neighborhoods where the opposition traditionally dominates.

The government has yet to comment on the report but socialist party boss Diosdado Cabello on Monday tried to turn the tables on Guaido, saying his security was now in the hands of the U.S. Embassy.

“If something happens to this man, or any leader from the opposition, it’s part of the imperialists’ plans,” Cabello said at a rally Monday in the central city of Barquisimeto.

Francisco Gonzalez, a pro-government analyst, said that while Maduro’s weakness and Venezuela’s economic and social problems are self-evident, many in the country resent the heavy-handed role the Trump administration is playing in the fast-unfolding crisis.

“The discontent is real,” said Gonzalez. “But at this stage it’s more about Trump looking for a foreign policy win to counter the decline in the U.S. geopolitical influence.”

——

Joshua Goodman on Twitter: https://twitter.com/APjoshgoodman


Source link

more recommended stories

  • Australia confirms Wikileaks’ Assange has valid passport

    SYDNEY (Reuters) – Australia has confirmed.

  • Syria Kurds evacuate civilians from IS redoubt, hail Trump troop reversal

    NEAR BAGHOUZ, Syria/ERBIL, Iraq (Reuters) –.

  • U.S. to leave 200 American peacekeepers in Syria after pullout

    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States.

  • Algeria military plane crash kills two – ministry

    ALGIERS (Reuters) – An Algerian military.

  • Venezuela’s opposition ambassador takes control of embassy in Costa Rica

    SAN JOSE (Reuters) – Venezuelan opposition.

  • Trump ‘in no rush’ on North Korea denuclearisation as envoy heads to finalise summit plans

    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald.

  • Venezuela opposition must pass over our dead bodies to oust Maduro – minister

    Venezuela’s Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino Lopez.

  • Poland says still awaits Israel’s apology in Holocaust row

    WARSAW (Reuters) – Poland is still.

  • Survey points to no rebound for slowing Germany economy

    An index of investor confidence in.

  • Nicaragua: Hefty prison terms for farm leaders in protests

    search2 Video Live Shows Good Morning.

  • Saudi minister assails Iran for blaming Riyadh in attack

    Senior Saudi diplomat assails Iran for.

  • Marco Rubio warns Venezuelan soldiers to let aid enter

    He says soldiers would commit a.

  • Fresh supplies of US aid arrive on Venezuela's border awaiting delivery into country

    Embattled Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has.

  • The Latest: Nigeria says vote delay not due to interference

    The Latest: Nigeria says last-minute vote.

  • India warns of 'crushing response' to Kashmir suicide attack

    India’s prime minister is warning of.

  • Across the Pond: Unrest in Haiti, climate strike, royal Valentine’s Day Video

    Now Playing: Anti-Trump protesters in Haiti.

  • Venezuelan prosecutor to investigate Guaido appointments

    Venezuela’s chief prosecutor says he’s launched.

  • Germany barely avoided recession in Q4 with zero growth

    Germany economic growth has stagnated in.

  • No exit: El Chapo likely off to 'Alcatraz of the Rockies'

    A 2-time escapee from Mexican prisons,.

  • Asian shares mostly higher on US-China trade deal optimism

    Asian shares are mostly higher, cheered.

  • NATO chief vows response to Russian missile pact violations

    NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg says the.

  • Brazil soccer club promises compensation for fire victims

    Brazilian soccer club Flamengo is promising.

  • Spain's courts put to test by trial of Catalan separatist

    Spain’s Supreme Court is bracing to.

  • Israel says woman's murder near Jerusalem 'nationalistic'

    Israel’s internal security agency says the.

  • Turkey urges China to respect Uighur rights, close camps

    Turkey has called China’s treatment of.

  • The Latest: Death toll in Turkish building collapse up to 18

    Turkey’s interior minister says authorities at.

  • People of the week: Afghanistan edition Video

    Transcript for People of the week:.

  • Top US envoy returns to South Korea after North Korea visit

    South Korean media say the top.

  • Brazil president shows symptoms ‘compatible’ with pneumonia

    search2 Video Live Shows Good Morning.

  • Maldives ex-president to be charged with money laundering

    Police in the Maldives have asked.

  • Some uneasy as Central African Republic, rebels make peace

    Central African Republic and 14 rebel.

  • Vietnam site for 2nd Trump-Kim summit may bring wins for all

    Vietnam’s selection as the venue for.