Venezuela’s self-proclaimed interim leader Juan Guaido began a tour of his country aimed at sparking a citizen’s movement to pry President Nicolas Maduro from power.
As Guaido, 35, kicked off his “operation freedom” in the northern city of Valencia on Saturday, the pro-Maduro military staged the latest in a series of exercises.
The drill focused on defending hydroelectric infrastructure from attack – a reaction to a weeklong national blackout that Maduro blamed on US “sabotage” but experts said that was more likely the result of years of neglect.
Guaido, the head of the opposition-ruled National Assembly whose claim to be caretaker president is recognized by the US, Canada and much of Latin America and Europe, vowed that he would “very soon” take up office in Miraflores, the presidential palace.
He has been pushing for nearly two months against Maduro after declaring himself acting president during street rallies by tens of thousands, following Maduro’s swearing-in for a second term despite elections widely dismissed as a sham.
“We are going to reclaim what belongs to the people,” Guaido told thousands of supporters on Saturday.
Maduro, he said, “believes that a thieving gang or a palace makes him president. It’s only the support of our people that makes someone president of a nation and he doesn’t have that.