Venezuela’s opposition leader Juan Guaidó has called for fresh demonstrations against Nicolás Maduro’s socialist dictatorship, after the regime barred him from holding public office for 15 years.
On Thursday afternoon, regime official Elvis Amoroso announced that Guaidó would be barred from holding public office for 15 years, the maximum punishment allowable by law, over supposedly inconsistent financial transactions and illegally accepting gifts from foreign governments.
Guaidó, who leads the Venezuelan National Assembly and is recognized by Western democracies as the country’s legitimate president, responded by calling for a mass mobilization of people across the country against the Maduro regime, dubbed ‘Operation Freedom.’
“From now until April 6th we must be prepared and know what places we are going to march,” he wrote. “There will thousands of places on the day of! As Long As We continue to unite and mobilize, with all the options on the table, conversing with our allies, there is no way we can lose”:
De aquí al 6 de abril debemos estar preparados y saber de qué puntos vamos a salir. ¡Serán miles de puntos el día de la #OperaciónLibertad!
Mientras sigamos unidos y movilizados, con todas las opciones sobre la mesa, conversando con nuestros aliados, no hay forma de perder. pic.twitter.com/TvT6pVhCFE
— Juan Guaidó (@jguaido) March 29, 2019
Guaidó’s call comes at a time when Venezuela’s economic and humanitarian crisis continues to reach new depths, with power outages now becoming a regular occurrence across the country. Just this week, at least 16 of the country’s 25 states were hit by power outages, wreaking havoc on the already collapsing public services such as hospitals and transport.
Maduro has repeatedly blamed the recent power outages on the United States, and this week even accused President Donald Trump of orchestrating a sniper attack on a key part of Venezuela’s electrical grid.
“They knew what they were attacking … Only the North American empire has enough hatred, enough wickedness in its brain, enough perversity – has a diabolical enough mind – to order an attack like this,” Maduro said. “It was an enemy bombardment – and you can be certain Donald Trump had a hand in this … Donald Trump is obsessed with Venezuela.”
Since assuming office, Trump has taken a strong interest in Venezuela, placing multiple economic sanctions against the regime and its key entities in a bid to drive Maduro from power and instigate a transition to freedom and democracy. However, such efforts have so far proved unsuccessful, with Maduro retaining the support of the military and allies such as China and Russia.
In a statement on Friday, White House National Security adviser John Bolton accused Russia of helping consolidate Maduro’s authority, after around 100 Russian soldiers and military equipment were sent from Moscow last week.
“The Administration condemns Nicolas Maduro’s continued use of foreign military personnel in his attempt to remain in power, including the introduction of Russian military personnel and equipment into Venezuela,” he wrote. “Maduro will only use this military support to further repress the people of Venezuela; perpetuate the economic crisis that has destroyed Venezuela’s economy and endanger regional stability.”
“We strongly caution actors external to the Western Hemisphere against deploying military assets to Venezuela, or elsewhere in the Hemisphere, with the intent of establishing or expanding military operations,” he continued. “We will consider such provocative actions as a direct threat to international peace and security in the region. ”