Juan Guaido, opposition leader of Venezuela, addressed several hundred protestors on Saturday 11 May, urging them to press forward with their campaigns of support for his bid to overthrow President Nicolas Maduro.
Earlier this month, an attempted coup by Guaido’s supporters was met with violence from government forces. In Caracas, the capital of Venezuela, cars were driven into crowds of protestors and rubber bullets were fired. It has been estimated that 230 were injured and 205 were detained during the spike of unrest that occurred across the country from Tuesday 30 April to Wednesday 1 May. This included at least four deaths, one of which being 16-year-old Yosner Graterol. The failed military uprising has spread fear amongst protestors, causing public demonstrations of support of Guaido to diminish in numbers.
Guaido hoped that the rebellion would encourage high ranking military defections, however, this did not occur. The soldiers fled Maduro’s regime and crossed the border to hand themselves in in Colombia. The movement of hundreds of Venezuelan military defectors in March further restricted the force of the opposition’s campaign. Since then, they have been housed and fed by Colombians and the United Nations, unable to return and assist in the outbreak of violence. Colombian Foreign Minister Carlos Trujillo has commented that there is no limit as to how long they will be looked after.
It has been speculated that several of the soldiers have made applications to seek asylum in the Brazilian embassy in Caracas. These petitions were likely made following Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s announcement of support for the Venezuelans, claiming they are “enslaved by a dictator.” He has claimed, “we support the freedom of this sister nation to finally live a true democracy.”
In January, Guaido declared himself to be the rightful interim president, based on the argument that Maduro illegitimately won his second term through rigged elections. More than 50 countries, including Brazil, the US, UK and Australia, have recognised Guaido as the country’s de facto leader. The US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Wednesday in response to the attempted coup that the US was prepared to act militarily in Venezuela “if that’s what’s required.”
In recent years, Venezuela has plunged into the nation’s deepest economic and political crisis in its history, despite having the world’s largest oil reserves. The extent of the inflation and the scarcity of basic goods has sent more than 3 million of its citizens to emigrate.