Venezuela‘s opposition supporters rallied nationwide on Tuesday to keep the heat on embattled President Nicolas Maduro and to demand he allow humanitarian aid into the country where food and medicine shortages are rife.
Government supporters also went out to the streets in Caracas denouncing foreign intervention in the country.
Speaking at a rally in Caracas, US-backed opposition leader Juan Guaido announced that humanitarian aid will enter Venezuela on February 23, and asked the military forces to let it in.
The rallies took place nearly three weeks to the day that Guaido invoked a constitutional provision to declare himself Venezuela’s interim president, arguing that Maduro’s re-election last year was a sham.
Opposition supporters at the rally said they are eager to see a change in the country.
“It can not be that since I was born the only thing I remember is misery, pain, hunger and relatives leaving the country,” Sol Betancourt, a 24-year-old student told Al Jazeera.
Most Western countries including the US have recognised Guaido as Venezuela’s president, but Maduro retains the backing of powerful nations like Russia and China, as well as control of state institutions including the military.
The two sides are at loggerheads over the issue of humanitarian aid, which the opposition says has become necessary due to Maduro’s mishandling of the once-buoyant OPEC nation’s economy.
The 35-year-old Guaido is coordinating Western relief efforts, while Maduro, who denies there is a crisis, is blocking supplies from coming in.
“We will return to the streets … to demand the entry of humanitarian aid that will save the lives of more than 300,000 Venezuelans that today are at risk of dying,” Guaido said on Twitter late Monday. “This is a time to unite and fight!”
— Juan Guaidó (@jguaido) February 11, 2019
Maduro has denounced the attempts to deliver aid as a US-orchestrated show to undermine and overthrow his government.
“The Ku Klux Klan governing the White House today wants to take possession of Venezuela,” Maduro said in an interview with the BBC.
“Venezuela is not a country of famine. In the west, Venezuela’s situation is distorted to justify any sort of intervention,” he said.
Translation: Venezuelans are massively concentrated in Plaza Morelos, Caracas, in defence of #Venezuela’s peace and in commemoration of the Youth Day, news outlet Telesur reported.
#ENVIDEO📽️ | Venezolanos se concentran masivamente desde la Plaza Morelos en #Caracas, en defensa de la paz de #Venezuela y en conmemoración del Día de la Juventud #JuventudInvencible pic.twitter.com/2vqPgErypl
— teleSUR TV (@teleSURtv) February 12, 2019
Russia stands ready to facilitate the start of dialogue between Venezuela’s government and opposition, TASS news agency quoted Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov on Tuesday as saying.
Ryabkov also said Russia had made some proposals “to Venezuela” on settling the crisis in the country.
Translation: Here is the happy youth! Now ready to march to Plaza Bolivar on the Youth Day, following the example of Jose Felix Ribas, we celebrate with love and above all loyalty the day of Youth, Pedro Infante, Sports Minister wrote.
¡Aquí está la juventud alegre, de paz y futuro! 🙌🏽🇻🇪❤️
Ya listos para marchar hasta la Plaza Bolívar en el día de la Juventud, siguiendo el ejemplo del José Félix Ribas, celebramos con amor y sobre todo lealtad el día de la Juventud. 🇻🇪#JuventudInvencible @NicolasMaduro pic.twitter.com/ZT6A2RUSvP
— Pedro Infante A. (@pinfantea) February 12, 2019
‘Unite and fight’
Guaido has vowed that the opposition, which he has regalvanised after several years of in-fighting, will keep protesting to pressure Maduro to step down so new presidential elections can be held.
The opposition will also hold an all-night vigil on Tuesday in a Caracas square to demand that Maduro let aid in.
But the government insists aid is not needed and that in reality the US is trying to get its hands on Venezuela’s abundant oil reserves, replicating US military intervention in Iraq and Lybia.
Maduro’s critics had staged two major rounds of protests, the last in 2017, against what they call his dictatorship, but they subsided in the wake of a government crackdown.
With additional reporting by Alicia Hernandez in Caracas.
Venezuela’s National Constituent Assembly President Diosdado Cabello speaks during a rally [Marco Bello/Reuters]