Back in Venezuela, Guaido prepares to meet state workers
Venezuelan Congress President Juan Guaido, an opposition leader who has declared himself interim president, greets a supporter as he arrives to meet with public employee unions in Caracas, Venezuela, Tuesday, March 5, 2019. (AP / Fernando Llano)
Christopher Torchia, The Associated Press
Published Tuesday, March 5, 2019 12:15AM EST
Last Updated Tuesday, March 5, 2019 3:59PM EST
CARACAS, Venezuela -- Opposition leader Juan Guaido on Tuesday 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.
Guaido said police officials were among those at a meeting that he held with leaders of public employee unions, which rely heavily on subsidies from 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," Guaido said after a meeting at the offices of an engineers' association in Caracas. He urged state workers to prepare for a strike, though no date was given and he said an immediate priority will 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.
Guaido and his backers say Maduro's re-election last year was invalid, making the legislative leader interim president. At least one pro-Maduro Supreme Court judge has accused Guaido of illegally usurping power, putting him at risk of arrest.
Guaido had shrouded the route and timing of his return Monday in secrecy amid concerns he might be detained. Yet he breezed through airport immigration checks and brazenly called for Maduro's downfall at a rally where the presence of security forces was minimal.
The United States and other countries had warned Maduro not to move against his adversary, and he possibly realized arresting his foe could generate more street protests.
And while Guaido's presence is likely to add at least short-term momentum to his campaign for political change, Maduro has proven 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 U.S. oil sanctions designed to put more pressure on Maduro take their toll. With both political factions holding firm amid increasing deprivation for Venezuelans, some analysts speculate that they might be considering negotiations on an end to the standoff.
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 recognized Guaido as the legitimate leader of Venezuela. Maduro has accused those nations of participating in a U.S.-backed coup plot against him.
Guaido left Venezuela last month despite a court order banning him from foreign travel and visited Colombia, Brazil, Paraguay, Argentina and Ecuador. The governments of those countries support his claim to be Venezuela's interim president and have urged Maduro to resign so the country can prepare for free and fair elections.