As Venezuelans protest, Maduro seeks early parliamentary vote
Updated 13:12, 03-Feb-2019
CGTN
04:22

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro proposed early parliamentary elections on Saturday, seeking to shore up his crumbling rule after a senior general defected to the opposition and tens of thousands thronged the streets in protest at his government.

A senior air force general disavowed him in a video that circulated earlier on Saturday, expressing his allegiance to parliament head and self-proclaimed interim president Juan Guaido. The military's support is crucial for Maduro.

In a speech to supporters, Maduro said the powerful government-controlled Constituent Assembly would debate calling elections this year for the National Assembly parliament, which is opposition-controlled.

Guaido has called for a new, fair presidential election after the disputed vote won by Maduro last year.

"You want elections? You want early elections? We are going to have parliamentary elections," Maduro told a pro-government rally in Caracas, held to commemorate the 20th anniversary of late socialist leader Hugo Chavez's first inauguration as president.

Opposition supporters take part in a rally against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro's government in Caracas, Venezuela, February 2, 2019. /VCG Photo

Opposition supporters take part in a rally against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro's government in Caracas, Venezuela, February 2, 2019. /VCG Photo

Opposition lawmaker Armando Armas said in a statement that proposing bringing forward the parliamentary elections, which were scheduled for 2020, was just another act of provocation.

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.

General Francisco Yanez of the air force's high command became 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.

On its Twitter account, the air force's high command accused the general of treason.

Humanitarian aid from an "international coalition" would soon flow into Venezuela, which is facing rampant hunger and medicine shortages, from collection points in Brazil, Colombia and a Caribbean island, Guaido said.

It is unclear whether Maduro's government, which denies the country is suffering a humanitarian crisis, will let any foreign aid through.

The United States, Canada and several Latin American nations have recognized Guaido as the legitimate head of state. Some European Union member states are expected to officially recognize Guaido next week.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang stressed that China's cooperation with Venezuela is based on the principles of equality, mutual benefit, and joint development when asked if China would be "worried" that Venezuela cannot pay back its debt.

"We believe that however the situation develops or changes, cooperation between China and Venezuela will not be damaged," he added.

Source(s): Reuters