Venezuela’s US defence attache breaks with Maduro

Washington: In a jolt to the Nicolas Maduro-led Venezuelan government, the South American nation’s military attache to the United States broke with the regime and asked other armed forces members to recognise Juan Guaidó as the legitimate interim president.

“As the Venezuelan defence attache in the United States, I do not recognize Mr Nicolas Maduro as president of Venezuela…,” Colonel Jose Luis Silva announced, extending his support to Guaido, who is also recognised as interim President by the US and most of its allied countries.

In an appeal to members of the Venezuelan armed forces to support Guaido, Silva said: “My message to all armed forces members, to everyone who carries a gun, is to please let’s not attack the people. We are also part of the people, and we’ve had enough of supporting a government that has betrayed the most basic principles and sold itself to other countries.” He was speaking at the Venezuelan embassy in the United States.

This came after US Secretary of State, Michael Pompeo, rallied for all countries to “pick a side” in the Venezuelan crisis.

“Now, it is time for every other nation to pick a side. No more delays, no more games. Either you stand with the forces of freedom, or you’re in league with (Nicolas) Maduro and his mayhem,” Pompeo remarked on January 26, labelling Maduro’s regime as “illegitimate mafia state”.

Venezuela plunged into political crisis last week after Guaido proclaimed himself as President amid throngs of cheering supporters, who called for Maduro to step down. The US first extended its support to Guaido, followed by nations like Canada and the UK. However, countries like Russia and China have shown support for Maduro and slammed the United States for their interference in the nation.

Maduro has since severed all diplomatic ties with the US. He ordered all US diplomatic staff to leave Venezuela, following which the United States pulled all non-emergency staff out from the nation after their initial dismissal of Maduro’s move.

Maduro has called the opposition leader a US puppet and accused the US of organizing a coup in Venezuela.