Pressure on besieged President Nicolás Maduro continued to mount over the weekend as massive opposition crowds poured into the streets in Caracas and elsewhere. Just as importantly, top administration officials are starting to defect, with Venezuela’s ambassador to Iraq announcing support for opposition leader Juan Guaidó.
Meanwhile, acting Venezuelan air force General Francisco Yanez also announced his support for Guaidó, claiming that 90 percent of Venezuela’s armed forces oppose Maduro. If true, Maduro’s days may be numbered as he is relying almost solely on military support to remain in office. Yanez also suggested that Maduro is looking to flee the country and urged him to do so.
While many Venezuelans lack access to basic goods, like toilet paper and medicine, the military has been well provisioned. Maduro knows he needs to keep his military fed if he wants to maintain his grip on power. Still, harsh sanctions may make it difficult for Maduro to continue funneling supplies to the military.
More defections may follow. Senator Marco Rubio claims that at least seven other high-ranking officials want to defect but fear for their safety. Rubio also claims that the national police are refusing to quell protests, suggesting that they too may switch sides or at least step aside.
Despite the defections and widespread protests, Maduro has remained defiant. He has urged Venezuelans to join and support the military in an effort to “defend the sacred motherland.” Some protesters took to the streets to express support for Maduro over the weekend as well.
Maduro has called for negotiations with opposition leaders but has so far refused to hold another election. Many observers allege that the last election, which Maduro won, was a sham. Guaidó, who leads the opposition-controlled National Assembly, has declared himself acting president but has promised to hold new elections if he seizes power.
Internationally, the United States, the EU parliament, Canada, and various Latin American countries have urged Maduro to step aside. China and Russia continue to back Maduro.