Merida, February 13, 2019 (venezuelanalysis.com) – Venezuelans took to the streets once again on Tuesday to celebrate National Youth Day, with both pro- and anti-government marches held across the country.
Both marches, which were of similar sizes in Caracas, were held peacefully with no reports of violent outbreaks, and drew smaller crowds than previous mobilisations held by both sides on February 2
Juan Guaido, who proclaimed himself the country’s “Interim President” three weeks ago and has been spearheading efforts at ousting President Maduro, addressed tens of thousands of followers in the middle- and upper-class east of Caracas.
He once again promised followers that President Maduro will “have to leave no matter what” without offering further details. Despite international recognition from 25 percent of the world’s governments, Guaido continues to command no control over Venezuelan institutions or the armed forces in Venezuela.
President of the National Assembly Guaido also promised the country that US-delivered humanitarian aid will “enter the country no matter what” on February 23, issuing an “order” for the military to allow it to enter. However, military leaders have dismissed these calls, with the Central Defense Region tweeting in response that the armed forces would not take any orders from an “imperial lackey.”
“One month after the swearing in we have done it. This February 23 the humanitarian aid will enter the country. The Armed Forces have 11 days to decide if they are on the side of the Venezuelans and the Constitution or on that of the usurper,” he claimed in reference to President Maduro.
As part of efforts to allow US forces into the country, the Venezuelan opposition has reportedly signed up 250,000 volunteers and will be holding “processions” of people in border regions starting next Sunday, raising the prospect of possible confrontations.
He encouraged his followers to set up “nomadic humanitarian camps… [which] will have to go in procession and protest to receive the humanitarian aid.”
Aid delivered through the US Agency for International Development (USAID), allegedly including food and medicine packages for 10 days, is reportedly being stockpiled in the Colombian border town of Cucuta. The Venezuelan military is, however, following President Maduro’s order to not allow it to enter the country, claiming that it is a trap and a pretext for US intervention.
The Red Cross and United Nations also distanced themselves from the aid plan earlier this week, claiming that it has been “politicised.”
Chavista march also held
Pro-government forces also took to the streets Tuesday in a march culminating in Caracas’ central Bolivar Square.
The march featured several youth organisations, chief among them the youth wing of the ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), including groups coming from other states. To mark the occasion, President Maduro awarded the Jose Felix Ribas award to a number of civilian and military youths. Venezuelan Youth Day is held on the anniversary of the La Victoria battle (February 12, 1814), in which Jose Felix led a force made up mostly of college and seminar students to victory against royalist forces during the wars for independence.
At the celebrations, Maduro also talked about a new brand for Venezuela’s tourism industry, which was launched on Monday. Caracas hopes tourism can play a role in attracting foreign investment and turning around the country’s economic crisis.
Reiterating his call for dialogue, Maduro once again rejected US-led military threats against Venezuela.
As part of the government’s response to rising tensions regarding the USAID delivery on the border with Colombia, local government representative for Tachira State, Freddy Bernal, told press Monday that the United Socialist Party (PSUV) and other pro-government organisations are planning to set up an anti-imperialist youth camp close to the Tienditas Bridge which connects Venezuela to Colombia.
The bridge has been the focus of international media attention after reports suggested that President Maduro had ordered its closure to prevent aid from entering the country. The bridge has however been closed since 2016 following a breakdown in bilateral agreements.
“An anti-imperialist camp will stay there. It is for all of our youths who (…) support peace and reject foreign aggression, essentially asking that the US take it hands off Venezuela,” Bernal told reporters. He also described Guaido’s humanitarian aid plan as a “Trojan horse.”
UN reaffirms dialogue offer
As tensions rise regarding the possible forced entry of humanitarian aid into the country, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres once again offered to mediate between the Venezuelan government and the opposition.
“We consider that the United Nations and myself can offer our good offices to both parties at their request for negotiation, a serious negotiation able to take the country out of the present standoff,” he declared at a press conference held for the 32nd Summit of the African Union Sunday.
Juan Guaido has recently echoed statements from Washington ruling out any dialogue, with the hard-right Venezuelan politician stating that there is “no chance” of him sitting down with government officials.
Bilateral discussions were also held by phone Tuesday between Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, with the Venezuela situation one of the topics discussed.
Following the call, Lavrov told reporters that Russia is warning the US against any military intervention in the Latin American country.
“The use of force with which Washington is threatening [against Venezuela] is a violation of international law,” he stated.
Edited by Ricardo Vaz in Caracas.