Venezuela’s Guaidó asks followers to surround military bases amid aid showdown

Venezuela’s interim President Juan Guaidó is asking followers to surround military bases on Saturday to demand that the armed forces allow aid into the country — a provocative move that’s likely to inflame Nicolás Maduro.

In a series of tweets Wednesday, Guaidó told his 1.3 million followers to peacefully surround military installations “and demand the entry of humanitarian aid.”

Señores of the [armed forces], you have three days to follow the orders of the president and put yourself on the right side of the constitution,” he wrote. “This aid is to save lives.”

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The tactic comes as Guaidó — backed by the United States, Colombia, Brazil and others — is asking hundreds of thousands of volunteers to defy Maduro and his military and head to the border this weekend and bring in food and medical supplies that have been donated to the country. A warehouse of largely U.S. aid is being stockpiled near the Colombian town of Cúcuta. And there are plans to have similar depots in Brazil and the Dutch island of Curacao.

Maduro says the aid push is illegal, unnecessary and tantamount to an invasion. He’s blocked one border bridge with Colombia, sent military to the frontier and has promised not to let any of the aid in. He has also suspended flights and shipping from Curacao.

While Guaidó has popular support and the backing of many in the international community, he’s failed to spark the mass military defections that many were expecting.

On Tuesday, Venezuela Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino López said Washington and others who want regime change in the country would have to achieve it “over our dead bodies.”

Venezuela has been mired in a political stalemate since Jan. 23 when Guaidó said it was his constitutional duty, as head of congress, to assume the presidency and call new elections. Maduro says he has the right to run the economically shattered country through 2025.

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Jim Wyss covers Latin America for the Miami Herald and was part of the team that won the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for its work on the “Panama Papers.” He and his Herald colleagues were also named Pulitzer finalists in 2019 for the series “Dirty Gold, Clean Cash.” He joined the Herald in 2005.