Venezuela’s Maduro tours military amid mounting pressure

Image result for Venezuela's Maduro tours military amid mounting pressureVenezuelan President Nicolas Maduro on Sunday visited a military base in the northern state of Carabobo, exhorting the audience, “Traitors never, loyal always,” televised images showed.

During the visit to Fort Paramacay in Carabobo’s capital city Valencia, Maduro, along with Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino Lopez, marched through barracks during an exercise in the latest gesture to display military backing.

The military is planning larger exercises on Feb. 10-15 that Maduro said are the “most important in the history of Venezuela.”

In a video posted on Twitter on Sunday, Juan Guaido, the self-proclaimed interim president, called for a “peaceful” strike on Wednesday and another “big national and international” one on Saturday.

Vying to draw soldiers over to his side, the leader of the opposition-controlled National Assembly has published an amnesty law that guarantees impunity for military members who join him.

The opposition is in talks with sympathetic military and civilian officials in a bid to force out Maduro, Guaido told The Washington Post on Sunday.

Israel on Sunday announced that it joined the United States and Canada in recognizing Guaido as Venezuela’s leader, after U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo urged countries to “pick a side” on the leadership of the poverty-stricken country.

Over the past days, Britain, Germany, France and Spain said they would recognize Guaido if Maduro will not call new elections within eight days, an ultimatum that Maduro has rejected.

“Nobody can give us an ultimatum,” said Maduro in an interview with broadcaster CNN Turk that was aired Sunday.

Maduro was elected last year with 67.84 percent of the votes, and he was sworn in as president on Jan. 10 for another six-year term. On Jan. 23, 35-year-old Guaido declared himself interim president.

U.S. President Donald Trump on Jan. 23 said the United States recognizes Guaido as Venezuela’s “interim president,” adding that the United States would continue to use economic and diplomatic power to press for “the restoration of Venezuelan democracy.”

In response, Maduro on the same day announced he was severing “diplomatic and political” ties with the United States.