Venezuelan general defects as anti-Maduro rallies draw huge crowds

Opposition supporters take part in a rally against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro's government in Caracas, Venezuela on February 2, 2019. (REUTERS/Carlos Barria)
Updated 03 February 2019

Venezuelan general defects as anti-Maduro rallies draw huge crowds

  • Air force general Francisco Yanez is the first active Venezuelan general to recognize Guaido since he proclaimed himself president on Jan. 23
  • On its Twitter account, the air force’s high command accused the general of treason

CARACAS: A high-ranking Venezuelan general called on the armed forces to rebel against President Nicolas Maduro and to recognize the opposition leader Juan Guaido as the interim chief as huge crowds rallied against the head of state, adding pressure on Maduro to step down.
The military’s support is crucial for the embattled Maduro, who is deeply unpopular largely due to an unprecedented economic crisis that has prompted an exodus of millions, but claims he is victim of a coup directed by the United States.
The general’s defection came as tens of thousands of opposition supporters, many sporting clothes in the yellow, blue and red colors of the Venezuelan flag, turned out at rallies nationwide to protest against Maduro and show support for Guaido.
Washington, along with many countries in the western hemisphere, has recognized Guaido as the legitimate president, arguing that Maduro stole his second term, and imposed potentially crippling sanctions this week that are likely to further weaken the OPEC nation’s struggling oil industry.
While small rebellions against Maduro have broken out in Venezuela’s armed forces in recent months, there has been no large scale military uprising against him.
“People of Venezuela, 90 percent of the armed forces of Venezuela are not with the dictator, they are with the people of Venezuela,” General Francisco Yanez of the air force’s high command said in a video circulating on Twitter on Saturday.
“Given the happenings of the last few hours, already the transition to democracy is imminent.”
On its Twitter account, the air force’s high command accused the general of treason.
Yanez is the first active Venezuelan general to recognize Guaido since he proclaimed himself president on Jan. 23. Venezuela’s chief military attache to the United States also said he was defecting last week.



Canada and several Latin American nations have already officially recognized Guiado. Some European Union member states are expected to officially recognize Guaido next week, while others will likely take a more cautious stance of support.
“We are going to send a very clear message in all the municipalities of Venezuela and in each city of the world, we are going to give a demonstration of strength, in a pacific and organized manner,” Guaido tweeted on Saturday.
Mireanna Fernandez, a 20-year-old student at a protest in the eastern city of Ciudad Guayana, said before Guaido’s Jan. 23 proclamation she wanted to leave Venezuela, but now she had hope that Maduro’s government would end.
“I have no quality of life, I can’t go out onto the streets, my university is falling apart, they’ve closed classrooms, there are no teachers,” she said.
“It’s time they leave.”

Two decades of ‘Chavismo’
Maduro on Saturday will also hold a rally to commemorate the 20th anniversary of late socialist leader Hugo Chavez’s first inauguration as president in 1999.
“Today is the anniversary of 20 years of work, fight, advances and important achievements, despite the difficulties and imperial conspiracies,” the president said on twitter.
“Congratulations to all.”
Supporters of the “chavismo” movement founded by Chavez gathered in Caracas’ Bolivar avenue for the government rally on Saturday morning.
“For us Venezuelans, there is only one president — President Nicolas Maduro,” said Gregory Carrasquel, 35. “The other is someone who is being led to carry out a coup.”
“(US President Donald) Trump is imposing measures because he is the dictator of the world and thinks we are his slaves.”
Washington has imposed sweeping sanctions on state-owned oil firm PDVSA in the toughest financial challenge yet to Maduro, as the Trump administration openly seeks to push him from power.
Venezuela is suffering from hyperinflation, produce shortages and a mass migration of citizens to neighboring Latin American countries — a situation likely to be worsened in the short term by the new sanctions.
Guaido swore himself in as interim president in a direct challenge to Maduro’s rule, but still has no control over state institutions or any functions of day-to-day governance.
Maduro’s adversaries say he has run roughshod over democratic institutions, including the opposition-run congress, and destroyed the once-buoyant economy through a corruption-riddled exchange control system and arbitrary nationalizations.


Coronavirus worst crisis since Second World War, UN boss says as deaths surge

Updated 01 April 2020

Coronavirus worst crisis since Second World War, UN boss says as deaths surge

  • Around half of the planet’s population is under some form of lockdown
  • Lockdowns remain at the forefront of official disease-stopping arsenals — a strategy increasingly borne-out by science

WASHINGTON: The global death toll from the coronavirus pandemic continued to worsen Wednesday despite unprecedented lockdowns, as the head of the United Nations sounded the alarm on what he said was humanity’s worst crisis since World War II.
The warning came as Donald Trump told Americans to brace for a “very painful” few weeks after the United States registered its deadliest 24 hours of the crisis.
Around half of the planet’s population is under some form of lockdown as governments struggle to halt the spread of a disease that has now infected more than 850,000 people.
Well over 40,000 are known to have died, half of them in Italy and Spain, but the death toll continues to rise with new records being logged daily in the US.
“This is going to be a very painful — a very, very painful — two weeks,” Trump said, describing the pandemic as “a plague.”
“I want every American to be prepared for the hard days that lie ahead.”
America’s outbreak has mushroomed rapidly. There are now around 190,000 known cases — a figure that has doubled in just five days.
On Tuesday, a record 865 people died, according to a tally kept by Johns Hopkins University, taking the national toll so far to more than 4,000.
Members of Trump’s coronavirus task force said the country should be ready for between 100,000 and 240,000 deaths in the coming months.
“As sobering a number as that is, we should be prepared for it,” Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert.
America’s under-pressure health system is being supplemented by field hospitals sprouting up all over New York, including a tented camp in Central Park, a hospital ship and converted convention centers.
But even with the extended capacity, doctors say they are still having to make painful choices.
“If you get a surge of patients coming in, and you only have a limited number of ventilators, you can’t necessarily ventilate patients,” Shamit Patel of the Beth Israel hospital said. “And then you have to start picking and choosing.”
The extraordinary economic and political upheaval spurred by the virus presents a real danger to the relative peace the world has seen over the last few decades, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Tuesday.
The “disease ... represents a threat to everybody in the world and... an economic impact that will bring a recession that probably has no parallel in the recent past.”
“The combination of the two facts and the risk that it contributes to enhanced instability, enhanced unrest, and enhanced conflict are things that make us believe that this is the most challenging crisis we have faced since the Second World War,” he said.
In virtual talks Tuesday, finance ministers and central bankers from the world’s 20 major economies pledged to address the debt burden of low-income countries and deliver aid to emerging markets.
Last week G20 leaders said they were injecting $5 trillion into the global economy to head off a feared deep recession.
In the European Union, however, battle lines have been drawn over the terms of a rescue plan.
Worst-hit Italy and Spain are leading a push for a shared debt instrument — dubbed “coronabonds.”
But talk of shared debt is a red line for Germany and other northern countries, threatening to divide the bloc.
Deaths shot up again across Europe. While there are hopeful signs that the spread of infections is slowing in hardest-hit Italy and Spain, which both reported more than 800 new deaths Tuesday.
France recorded a one-day record of 499 dead while Britain reported 381 coronavirus deaths, including that of a previously healthy 13-year-old.
That came after a 12-year-old Belgian girl succumbed to an illness that is serious chiefly for older, frailer people with pre-existing health conditions.
Lockdowns remain at the forefront of official disease-stopping arsenals — a strategy increasingly borne-out by science.
Researchers said China’s decision to shutter Wuhan, ground zero for the global COVID-19 pandemic, may have prevented three-quarters of a million new cases by delaying the spread of the virus.
“Our analysis suggests that without the Wuhan travel ban and the national emergency response there would have been more than 700,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases outside of Wuhan” by mid-February, said Oxford University’s Christopher Dye.