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Friday 18 October 2019

Guaido asks state workers for support in push to oust Maduro

Juan Guaido addressed a meeting at the offices of an engineers’ association in Caracas.

Juan Guaido gives a news conference at the end of his meeting with leaders of public employee unions (Fernando Llano/AP)
Juan Guaido gives a news conference at the end of his meeting with leaders of public employee unions (Fernando Llano/AP)

By Christopher Torchia, Associated Press

Opposition leader Juan Guaido has appealed for support from Venezuela’s state workers in his push to oust President Nicolas Maduro, whose government has yet to comment on the defiant homecoming of his adversary.

Mr Guaido said police officials were among those at a meeting that he held on Tuesday with leaders of public employee unions, which rely heavily on subsidies from Mr Maduro’s government to get by in a country suffering from hyperinflation and shortages of food and other necessities.

“We’re not going to collaborate any longer with the dictatorship,” Mr Guaido said after a meeting at the offices of an engineers’ association in Caracas.

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People take pictures of Juan Guaido as he gives a news conference (Fernando Llano/AP)

He urged state workers to prepare for a strike, though no date was given and he said an immediate priority would be to promote a law guaranteeing rights for public workers.

The 35-year-old leader of the National Assembly said he would call a meeting of the legislature on Wednesday to craft the law.

Mr Guaido and his backers say Mr Maduro’s re-election last year was invalid, making the legislative leader interim president.

At least one pro-Maduro Supreme Court judge has accused Mr Guaido of illegally usurping power, putting him at risk of arrest.

Mr Guaido had shrouded the route and timing of his return on Monday in secrecy amid concerns he might be detained.

Yet he breezed through airport immigration checks and brazenly called for Mr Maduro’s downfall at a rally where the presence of security forces was minimal.

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A man lifts his daughter to help her get a better view of Juan Guaido (Fernando Llano/AP)

While Mr Guaido’s presence is likely to add at least short-term momentum to his campaign for political change, Mr Maduro has proved to be resilient and still controls the organs of state, including the critical loyalty of top military officers.

Venezuela is gripped by a humanitarian crisis that is expected to worsen as US oil sanctions designed to put more pressure on Mr Maduro take their toll.

Mr Guaido, meanwhile, has called for big protests on Saturday, a tactic that has sometimes been countered by Maduro loyalists with flag-waving rallies of their own.

The United States and some 50 other countries have recognised Mr Guaido as the legitimate leader of Venezuela. Mr Maduro has accused those nations of participating in a US-backed coup plot against him.

Mr Guaido left Venezuela last month despite a court order banning him from foreign travel and visited Colombia, Brazil, Paraguay, Argentina and Ecuador.

PA Media

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