A Venezuelan air force general became the latest high-ranking military member to renounce his support for socialist dictator Nicolás Maduro, declaring in a video this weekend that he recognized opposition leader Juan Guaidó as the country’s legitimate president.
In a video shared by opposition deputy Sergio Contreras, General Yánez Rodríguez announced his support for Guaidó and claimed the Venezuelan military is no longer behind the Maduro regime and would soon lead the country into a transition government.
“I am addressing you to inform you that I do not recognize the irritating and dictatorial authority of Nicolás Maduro and I recognize deputy Juan Guaidó as the president in charge,” he said. “To the people of Venezuela, 90 percent of the Bolivarian National Armed Forces are not with the dictator, they are with the people of Venezuela, because of the events of the last hours and the transition to democracy are now imminent.”
“To continue ordering the Armed Force to keep repressing our people is to continue with the deaths of hunger, disease and, God forbid, of fighting among ourselves,” he continued. “I invite all the people of Venezuela to come peacefully to the streets and defend our president, Juan Guaidó. I ask my comrades-in-arms not to turn their backs on the people of Venezuela, do not repress more.”
General reconoce a @jguaido como presidente y llama a desconocer a Maduro
Se trata del General de División Francisco Esteban Yánez Rodríguez (7.101.984)
Presidente de la Junta Permanente de Evaluación de la Comandancia General de la Aviación Militar Bolivariana. pic.twitter.com/agsPhF3Hua
— Sergio Contreras B:. (@SContrerasB) February 2, 2019
Venezuela’s aerospace command of the armed forces responded to Rodriguez’s announcement by posting a picture of him on Twitter with covered by the words “traitor.”
“We reject the announcement made by General Yanez who betrayed his oath of loyalty to our nation and chose to follow foreign plans,” they declared.
El General Activo de División Francisco Estéban Yánez Rodríguez, Director de Planificación Estratégica del Alto Mando Militar de la Aviación, fue tildado de Traidor por parte del componente de la Aviación pic.twitter.com/4srQ07PYsn
— Sergio Novelli (@SergioNovelli) February 2, 2019
Yanez’s recognition of Guaidó is the latest in a string of senior military defections, adding to dozens of nations that have announced they no longer see Maduro as the head of the Venezuelan government. Over the weekend, around a dozen mid-ranking military officials also came out in support of Guaidó, calling on their colleagues to do the same.
Guaidó echoed their calls during a speech on Sunday, urging military personnel to keep defecting and reminding them that the National Assembly, the federal legislature, passed a law granting amnesty to soldiers who defect from Maduro regardless of the human rights abuses they committed while following orders.
“We don’t just want you to stop shooting at protesters,” Guaido told a crowd of supporters. “We want you to be part of the reconstruction of Venezuela.”
Maduro still retains the support of many high-ranking military commanders, nearly all of whom were appointed as a result of their loyalty to Hugo Chávez’s “Bolivarian Revolution.” Most continue to live lavish lifestyles far above that of the average Venezuelan.