Venezuelan President Juan Guaidó announced a military amnesty campaign on Friday designed to strip socialist dictator Nicolás Maduro of the force he needs to control the country.
In a press conference delivered from central Caracas, Guaidó urged soldiers to “side with the people of Venezuela” and allow the flow of humanitarian aid into the country after the United States pledged to send a $20 million aid package requested by Guaidó himself.
“Soldiers of Venezuela, please join the side of the people of Venezuela,” he said. “You will have an important test before you in the next few days. First in front of your family, your loved ones, and God. The second test will be in front of those who need medicine, food, etc. Will you allow humanitarian aid to enter?”
Guaidó also spoke directly to the Cuban military personnel employed by the Maduro regime to bolster its strength and repressive elements, asking them to retire from their positions but adding they were free to remain in the country.
“It is time for Cuba to withdraw from our armed forces,” he said. “It is time for the Cubans to retire and leave from their leadership positions. Cuban brothers, attention, you are welcome to stay in this country. Now, out of the armed forces and out of leadership positions.”
“It is a matter of sovereignty and respect,” he added. “We are also in solidarity with the struggle of our Cuban brothers for freedom and sovereignty.”
The 35-year-old also asked his supporters to print out documents explaining the country’s amnesty law, which they could then hand to members of the armed forces to urge them to stop propping up Maduro’s regime, saying:
Today on social media, I ask you to download the [amnesty] law first so that you read it, and second so you print it out. On Sunday, we will meet in small groups and I ask for you to hand it to your family, friends, and acquaintances in the military … an unprecedented civil, pacific action.
You can meet in small groups and give them to local military blocks … We are extending our hand, we are telling those officials to come to our side, we have a future. Maduro protects no one – not from persecution, not from hunger, not from misery – but there is a future with us.
The National Assembly, which Guaidó led as president before becoming the nation’s head of state on Wednesday, passed the law to urge soldiers and other military personnel not to follow Maduro’s orders or fear retribution for their crimes while under the socialist regime.
If effective, Guaidó’s call for the military to stand down may prove the final straw for the Maduro regime, which depends on the loyalty of its soldiers to ensure his regime’s survival. Over recent years, many soldiers have abandoned the military in protest of Maduro or to find other work outside the country due to the collapse in their salaries and overall living standards.
Maduro still commands the loyalty of many high-ranking military officers, the majority of whom remain very well paid and increasingly empowered. As reported by Reuters on Tuesday, many senior military figures are faithful to the leadership, mainly because they were appointed by Maduro or his predecessor Hugo Chávez.
“The military leadership is faithful to Maduro and will continue to be until he’s gone,” one unnamed active duty high-ranking military officer reportedly told the agency.