A Venezuelan Air Force general on Saturday was the country's first high-ranking military official, who was defected by President Nicolás Maduro's government, and announced support for mass protests to topple the socialist dictator.
In a YouTube video released on Saturday, General Francisco Yanez claimed "90 percent" of the armed forces were against Maduro.
Maduro began a second term of six years last month after the elections were widely criticized and political opponents were excluded from voting. Since then, the country's economic and humanitarian crisis has only worsened.
Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó, who called for the mantle of the "interim president" last month, reiterated on Saturday his appeal to military and politicians to "step aside" the Venezuelan people. "
Most military leaders in the country have supported Maduro in the weeks since protests began. Venezuela's Aerospace Command tweeted a picture of Yanez with the word "traitor" on Saturday.
The military helped Maduro survive mass protests in 201
But surrounded by thousands of roaring supporters Guaidó, the 35-year-old president of the Venezuelan National Assembly, said the protests would continue until Maduro agreed to new elections overseen by international observers.
Maduro spoke at a rally in the capital Caracas that government officials said this forced to participate The ruler proposed to call for new elections for the National Assembly instead of a presidential election.
He claimed that the protests were part of a US-led coup attempt.
The Trump administration last month recognized Guaidó as the provisional president, who called for Maduro's international calls for resignation.
Last year, US officials allegedly held secret meetings with rebellious military leaders to discuss plans to overthrow Maduro. And this week, the US imposed new sanctions on the state-owned oil company, an attempt to obstruct the government by cutting off the main source of cash.
"Do you think Venezuela will give up and obey your orders? "Maduro Trump asked during his rally. "We will not surrender."
Opposition leaders plan to bring humanitarian aid to the country in the coming days, Guaidó said. The effort will be a test for the military, who has to decide whether to let the help through or follow Maduro's orders to stop them. He pointed out that the military and police were not operating in several cities against demonstrators filling the streets, a sign that their loyalty may be shifting.
Post Wire Services