Venezuela: Maduro Leads Military Exercises as Guaido Appeals to Armed Forces

Opposition supporters handed over copies of a proposed amnesty law while Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro visited military barracks and led drills.

By Ricardo Vaz
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Maduro addressing soldiers in Fort Paramacay on Sunday. (AVN)
Maduro addressing soldiers in Fort Paramacay on Sunday. (AVN)

Pays de Gex, France, January 28, 2019 (venezuelanalysis.com) - The Venezuelan armed forces remained at the center of Venezuela’s political crisis over the weekend.

In a move announced by Juan Guaidó during a Friday rally, opposition supporters went in small groups to police stations and military barracks Sunday to hand over copies of the National Assembly’s “Amnesty Law.” Guaidó, who proclaimed himself “interim president” on January 23, has repeatedly called on the “military family” to back his efforts to replace the Maduro government.

The National Assembly, which has been in contempt since 2016 for disregarding a Supreme Court ruling, approved the “Law of Amnesty and Constitutional Assurances” on January 15. The bill offers amnesty to all those identified as “political prisoners and exiles” since 1999. It also offers amnesty to all civilian and military functionaries who “collaborate in the restitution of democracy,” adding that all requests will be handled by ordinary and military courts.

The opposition-controlled National Assembly had previously tried to approve an amnesty law in 2016, also offering pardons for crimes dating back to 1999. The law was accused of promoting impunity vis-a-vis violent efforts to oust the government, including the 2002 coup as well as 2014 and 2017 “guarimba” protests, and was ultimately struck down as unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.

Footage on social media showed cases of soldiers respectfully receiving the bill, and others of soldiers burning it.

Simultaneously on Sunday, President Maduro visited military installations and led exercises alongside Defence Minister Vladimir Padrino Lopez in Carabobo State.

“Nobody should even think of stepping on this sacred soil. Venezuela wants peace, and to guarantee peace, we have to be prepared,” Maduro told press.

The military drills involved the 41st Armored Division based at Fort Paramacay, close to Valencia, as well as naval units deployed at the Agustin Armario Naval Base in Puerto Cabello. Maduro lauded the operational capacity of the National Bolivarian Armed Forces ahead of large-scale training exercises set for February 10-15.

For his part, Padrino Lopez stressed during a radio interview on Monday that the opposition’s amnesty law was an “instrument of manipulation,” and that the armed forces were conscious of their role.

Tensions in the South American country are likely to further rise this week with fresh anti-government protests announced. On Sunday, Guaido released a video calling for public demonstrations to be held on Wednesday between noon and 2 PM, and a larger rally to be held on Saturday.

Edited by Lucas Koerner in Caracas.