Venezuelans protest as Guaido declares ‘definitive’ escalation

Caracas, Apr 7: Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido launched what he promised will be a “definitive” escalation of pressure to force the country’s embattled leftist leader from office.
Addressing a giant anti-government rally in Caracas, Guaido — whose claim to be interim president is supported by around 50 nations — kicked off what he called “Operation Liberty,” his plan to oust President Nicolas Maduro.
“Everyone to the streets, let’s start the final phase of the end of the usurpation!” he told supporters, speaking from the back of a pickup truck.
He called for a huge nationwide turnout on Wednesday, and urged his followers to redouble their efforts to maintain pressure in the streets.
“The greatest escalation of pressure we have seen in our history” has begun, Guaido said.
The call comes amid massive blackouts and the collapse of water supplies affecting the nation, further exacerbated a growing political crisis.
The United States meanwhile has stiffened its economic sanctions against Maduro, and one top US official warned Venezuela’s military that it must protect the rights of peaceful protesters.
At the rally, Guaido also warned Cuba’s President Miguel Diaz-Canel that the supply of subsidized Venezuelan oil to the Caribbean communist island nation was over.
Venezuela has been sending cheap oil to Cuba in exchange for labor from Cuban doctors and teachers, but Guaido said the oil was actually financing a Cuban intelligence group known as G2 that was cracking down on Maduro opponents in the Venezuelan military.
“The exploitation of Venezuelan oil is over, so Mr Diaz-Canel… Venezuelan oil will not be used to submit and investigate our military officials” through the G2, he told the crowd.
Pro-Guaido protests drew thousands in rallies across the country.
A pro-Maduro counter-demonstration in Caracas, with supporters dressed in red, drew a large crowd that gathered at the Miraflores presidential palace.