Venezuela’s socialist President Nicolas Maduro had won a second term last year in an election that critics denounced as a sham. Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido invoked constitutional provisions to declare himself the country’s leader last month.
Maduro has the backing of Russia, India and China, whereas the U.S. along with many of Venezuela’s neighbors and most Western countries have recognized Juan Guaido as the interim president of Venezuela.
The U.S. President Donald Trump has offered his strong support for Juan Guaido.
Maduro, however, has the control of Venezuelan state institutions, including the security services.
The United States has had direct communications with Venezuela’s military personnel to initiate an effective mutiny in the ranks. Trump’s aides have been publicly predicting more defections.
But so far, military officers, by and large, have not gone against Maduro. Doubts persist whether the Trump administration has done enough groundwork urging Venezuela’s military to abandon Maduro.
U.S. President Donald Trump on Monday warned members of Venezuela’s military who remain loyal to socialist President Nicolas Maduro that they are risking their future and their lives and urged them to allow humanitarian aid into the country. As the toll of Venezuela’s political, economic and humanitarian crisis mounted, Trump sought to ramp up the public pressure on the current Maduro regime following a series of US-led sanctions and diplomatic maneuvers aimed at ousting Maduro.
Speaking to a cheering crowd mostly of Venezuelan and Cuban immigrants in Miami, Trump said if the Venezuelan military continues supporting Maduro, “you will find no safe harbor, no easy exit and no way out. You’ll lose everything.”
Trump, in his speech, branded socialism as a “dying” ideology in the Western Hemisphere and Maduro a “puppet” of communist-ruled Cuba.
Trump wants to boost support among Florida’s Hispanic voters as he looks ahead to his own re-election campaign in 2020, when Florida is again expected to be an important swing state.
Trump cautioned Venezuelan armed forces not to harm Guaido or other opposition politicians, urged them to accept the National Assembly leader’s offer of amnesty and demanded that they allow in food, medicine and other supplies.
Guaido, in a videotaped message to the crowd at Florida International University, called it a “decisive moment” to exert pressure on Maduro from inside and outside Venezuela.
In response, Maduro said late on Monday that Trump’s speech was “nazi-style” and said he acted as if he were the owner of Venezuela and its citizens his slaves.
Guaido has said that aid will enter Venezuela from neighboring countries by land and sea on Saturday.
The United States has sent tons of aid that is being stockpiled on Colombia’s border with Venezuela, but Maduro has refused to let it in.
Maduro calls the aid a U.S.-orchestrated show and denies any crisis despite many Venezuelans’ scant access to food and medicine.
“We will not make of the honorable Venezuela a Venezuela of beggars,” he said in televised comments on Monday. “We will not accept it.”
Maduro said Venezuela already received “humanitarian assistance” on a daily basis.
Russia, for example, was sending 300 tonnes of aid to the country by plane on Wednesday, he said, albeit clarifying this was not a donation but supplies for which Venezuela had paid.
“We seek a peaceful transition of power but all options are open,” Trump said. It was a further hint of Trump’s repeated insistence that military options remain on the table, though most Latin America experts believe such action is unlikely.