VENEZUELANS in TT yesterday heeded the call of self-proclaimed interim president Juan Guaido for worldwide support seeking an intervention in getting sitting president Nicolas Maduro out of office.
The crowd, wearing either yellow, blue, white or red, colours of the Venezuelan national flag gathered at Queen’s Park Savannah, Port of Spain, near TGI Fridays, at 4 pm and took an hour to march around the savannah, chanting, “Guaido is the new president!”
One of the organisers, Ruth Albornoz, said Guaido called on his supporters to “let people know we have an interim president, we want Maduro to go and to get an transitional government and for new elections.” She added that humanitarian aid will soon come to her people through Colombia, Brazil and “one of the countries in the Caribbean” but did not say which one. The aid is part of a US$20 million allocation from the US to help purchase medicine, food and other needed amenities in the country.
Albornoz denounced rumours of a military intervention, saying Maduro is weakening as the the military is not supporting him. She was referring to General Francisco Yanez, a member of the air force’s high command, disavowing Maduro and now recognising Guaido as interim head-of-state. A Reuters report said Yanez made a video which was posted on Twitter yesterday. In the video, he called on other members of the military to defect. Yanez is the first active Venezuelan general to recognise Guaido since he proclaimed himself head of state on January 23.
Among the crowd was local UWI student Leisha Hernandez who recorded and photographed the march as part of her international relations course which mandates that students keep abreast of current events in Latin America. Hernandez, who visited Venezuela last year for vacation, said people looking on should see the country for themselves before making pronouncements as the crisis she heard about, through the media, was not what she experienced and the country was “like a normal country”. She admitted that the cost of living at the time was high but there was food in the grocery stores and medicine in the pharmacies, unlike what she had seen and heard.
The organisers also called on PM Dr Keith Rowley to listen to their pleas. The group distributed flyers calling on Rowley, and by extension TT, to recognise the cries for “freedom” by millions of Venezuelans. The statement in part read: “At this crucial moment, we would like, you Honourable Prime Minister to understand, that helping the people of Venezuela (not the Nicolas Maduro regime) is in the best interest of Trinidad and Tobago citizens. The relationships amongst our new legitimate and constitutional government chair by our (interim) president Juan Guaido, can lead to significant benefits to both countries in relation to border controls, stopping of illicit trafficking of guns, drugs and human trafficking, prevention of terrorist cells, stopping the propagation of malaria and many other diseases. The alleged 40,000 plus Venezuelans, will be able to return safely to a democratic country, and more importantly, our new government sees Trinidad and Tobago as a relevant partner to start the recovery and sustainable development of both energy sectors. This could be our last chance to regain democracy and freedom; please Trinidad and Tobago choose democracy over diplomacy and help save millions of innocent people.”
Rowley on his return from the US last week where he visited the UN to call for a peaceful dialogue to end the impasse said TT was “not backing any horse in the Venezuela political race”.