Venezuela Crisis: Juan Guaidó Calls for Day of Protest to Win Military Support

The self-declared interim president of Venezuela, Juan Guaidó, called on citizens to take to the streets Wednesday as he attempted to win over the country's powerful military to help him depose dictator President Nicolás Maduro.

The crisis-stricken South American nation is in the grip of a power struggle between Maduro, the authoritarian leader in power since 2013, and 35-year-old Guaidó, who leads the opposition-controlled National Assembly.

Opposition supporters are hoping they can win over enough of the military establishment to challenge Maduro's hold on power, Reuters reported. Guaidó has offered amnesty to any military figures who defect to his parallel administration, and has called on supporters to distrubute a pamphlet with details about the amnesty proposal during mass protests planned for Wednesday.

"We must remain united as active agents of change in every corner of the country," Guaido tweeted Monday, having called for new protests over the weekend. "We're doing well, very well, Venezuela!"

Multiple countries—led by the U.S.—have thrown their weight behind Guaidó, recognizing him as the country's leader and declaring Maduro's January election victory illegitimate, citing voter fraud, opposition repression and other irregularities.

But other nations are falling in line behind Maduro, most notably Russia and China. Moscow has cultivated a strong relationship with Caracas in recent years, investing tens of billions of dollars in Venezuela's natural resource production infrastructure, and supplying enormous quantities of weapons.

Despite the country's crippling economic problems, Venezuela's military remains strong. It has also remained largely loyal to Maduro, who has used his forces to suppress dissent and prop up his beleaguered regime. Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino Lopez has backed the dictator, calling him the "legitimate president."

Nonetheless, rogue military units have launched periodic uprisings and even presidential assassination attempts under Maduro. Indeed, the current spiraling series of events began with a failed uprising by 27 members of the National Guard in Caracas last week, prompting mass street protests and encouraging Guaidó to declare himself interim president.

And last weekend, Maduro suffered a blow when the country's top military attaché to the U.S., Colonel Jose Luis Silva, became the first senior military official to defect to Guaidó's camp. Announcing his decision in a video posted to social media, Silva urged his colleagues: "Please, brothers, don't attack our people. The state gave us arms to protect our country, not to touch our equals."

Several nations—including the U.K., Germany and France—have threatened to join the U.S. and officially recognize Guaidó unless Maduro calls for new elections by February 3. Maduro dismissed the ultimatum.

Juan Guaido
Opposition leader of Venezuela Juan Guaidó delivers a speech during a demonstration in Caracas on January 26. Marco Bello/Getty Images