By Agence France-Presse
Venezuela’s US-backed opposition leader Juan Guaido prepared Friday to crank up the pressure on embattled President Nicolas Maduro with a massive weekend protest to push for early elections as Washington warned the socialist leader had run out of time for negotiations.
Major European countries have set a weekend deadline for Maduro to call such elections or they will join the United States in recognizing Guaido, the speaker of the national assembly, as Venezuela’s interim president.
“Nicolas Maduro will do well not to test the resolve of the United States of America. Maduro’s tyranny must end and must end now,” US Vice President Mike Pence warned at a rally of Venezuelan exiles in Miami.
Saturday’s march will coincide with the ruling Socialist party’s celebration of the 20th anniversary of the rise to power of Hugo Chavez, Maduro’s deceased predecessor.
In a letter to the presidents of Mexico and Uruguay published Friday, Guaido ruled out any negotiations with Maduro unless they “start the transition process, culminating in the holding of free elections.”
The tone was echoed by Pence in Miami.
“Let me be very clear: this is no time for dialogue. This is time for action,” the vice president said. “The time has come to end Maduro’s dictatorship once and for all.”
AFP / Federico Parra
Guaido, pictured with daughter Miranda and wife Fabiana Rosales outside his home in Caracas, has ruled out negotiations with Maduro unless they “start the transition process, culminating in the holding of free elections”
Pence also took aim at Maduro’s ally Cuba, for its “malign influence” in Venezuela and in leftist President Daniel Ortega’s Nicaragua. “The time has come to liberate Venezuela from Cuba,” he said.
Mexico’s Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador and Uruguay’s Tabare Vazquez have jointly called a conference in Montevideo next Thursday for “neutral” countries to discuss the crisis.
Previous negotiations all had the same “unsatisfactory result,” Guaido wrote. “The dictatorship of Nicolas Maduro has not changed its position. They have mocked the Venezuelan people to their face.”