As Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó welcomed support from the US and Israel after calling for new presidential elections in the distressed nation, a high-ranking Caracas military envoy to the US announced his defection.
Caracas military envoy to the US, Colonel Jose Luis Silva, announced his defection on Saturday, with a video asking his brethren in the nation’s armed forces to support opposition leader Juan Guaidó who has claimed the presidency, according to multiple sources.
“Today I speak to the people of Venezuela, and especially to my brothers in the armed forces of the nation, to recognize president Juan Guaidó as the only legitimate president,” Silva pleaded in a video recorded at the Venezuelan embassy in Washington DC, cited by The Financial Times.
Silva observed that two unnamed Venezuelan consular officials currently in the US have also claimed that the usurper is the authentic president, although that claim was not immediately confirmed, according to Reuters.
As Venezuela’s political crisis deepens, the defection by a top-ranking military envoy to the US, followed by the call for military forces to avoid deadly showdowns with civilians protesting on the streets, is seen as a pivotal moment.
Reports note that the standoff between the elected government of current President Nicolas Maduro and political usurper Guaido will likely be ended by the intervention of the nation’s military.
“The top brass of the military and the executive branch are holding the armed forces hostage. There are many, many who are unhappy,” Silva stated during his Saturday video.
“My message to the armed forces is, ‘Don’t mistreat your people.’ We were given arms to defend the sovereignty of our nation. They never, never trained us to say, ‘This is for you to attack your people, to defend the current government in power,'” Silvia said, cited by The Japan Times.
Guaidó acknowledged Silva’s defection in a tweet, while encouraging others in the nation’s military to do the same.
Additionally, Maduro’s administration has reversed an earlier order giving US diplomatic personnel 72 hours to leave the nation. A spokesperson for Maduro announced that a 30-day window would be opened in which Caracas would negotiate with the Trump administration to ease tensions, according to The Guardian.