The end of Nicolas Maduro’s socialist regime of terror may soon be coming to an end in Venezuela. Early on Wednesday, January 23, reports began surfacing about thousands of protesters hitting the streets of Caracas, many shouting anti-Maduro slogans such as “Get out, Maduro,” according to Reuters. Venezuelan police units used tear gas to drive the protesters back.
As the protests grew, Venezuela’s President of the National Assembly Juan Guaidó, who is also the leader of the opposition party, declared himself the country’s new interim president. Guaidó has been a long-time critic of Maduro and his policies, and claims that last year’s presidential elections were illegitimate. His sentiments were echoed by many politicians abroad, including U.S. Vice President Mike Pence.
“I swear to assume all the powers of the presidency to secure an end to the usurpation,” said Guaidó while addressing a group of protesters.
U.S. President Donald Trump said on Wednesday that he recognizes Guaidó as the legitimate president of Venezuela. In a statement, President Trump said that he “will continue to use the full weight of United States economic and diplomatic power to press for the restoration of Venezuelan democracy.” According to Reuters, Trump may decide to levy sanctions against Venezuela’s oil exports to put pressure on Maduro. Other prominent anti-Maduro figures such as Luis Almagro, the current secretary general of the Organization of American States, also expressed support for Guaidó, according to CNN.
Still, no one expects Maduro to go down without a fight. In 2014, Maduro imprisoned roughly a dozen dissident politicians for attempting a coup. One of those politicians was Leopoldo Lopez, who called for nonviolent demonstrations against the Maduro regime, according to Foreign Policy. Reuters also reports that Lopez is a longtime ally of Guaidó, and many fear Guaidó will suffer a similar fate as Lopez.
If Guaidó’s attempt to gain control of the government is to be successful, he will need the support of the country’s military. Despite earlier efforts this week by a faction of anti-Maduro soldiers to stage a coup, the armed forces of Venezuela are, for the most part, loyal to Maduro. The country’s supreme court is also in favor of the socialist leader.
Some experts believe the Venezuelan military is not as loyal to Maduro as it may appear. Since he came into power, thousands of soldiers have deserted. One retired Venezuelan general, Cliver Alcala, told Reuters that many soldiers are “not totally convinced that Maduro really is president.”