Caracas, 1 February 2019 (MIA/dpa) – Venezuela’s self-declared interim president Juan Guaido on Thursday accused President Nicolas Maduro’s regime of threatening his family amid an escalating power struggle.
Guaido said special police forces had gone to his home asking for his wife while the two were at a Caracas university where Guaido presented a reconstruction plan for Venezuela.
“We stand firm. They were afraid we would present the #PlanPais that Venezuela needs, but our event was successful, despite the attempt at intimidation,” Guaido wrote on Twitter afterwards, using a hash tag associated with his roadmap for a future government.
Police denied that they had been looking for Guaido’s family. Such allegations were “totally FALSE,” the police command tweeted.
A large number of Western countries have recognized Guaido as Venezuela’s interim president since he announced he was taking power during nationwide anti-government rallies last week.
Maduro, who won May elections widely seen as undemocratic, has presided over an economic disaster. The annual inflation is running at nearly 2 million per cent, while more than 3 million Venezuelans have fled food shortages and political unrest abroad.
Guaido’s plan for a post-Maduro government, drafted by the opposition-dominated National Assembly, includes stabilizing the economy, improving public services and fighting poverty.
The European Parliament on Thursday joined other bodies and organizations recognizing Guaido as president. The European Union announced the creation of a contact group with Latin American countries to support attempts at staging fresh elections in Venezuela.
Guaido told Spanish newspaper El Pais that if Maduro stepped down, elections would be held within 12 months.
Russia, which supports Maduro, has signalled its willingness to help mediate between him and the opposition.
The army has so far sided with Maduro, but minor attempts at mutinies have indicated it is divided, and the government said on Thursday that it had discovered “a new conspiracy plan.”
Interior Minister Nestor Reverol announced the arrest of three former army officers. Two of them were suspected of cooperating with hitmen coming from neighbouring Colombia, who were planning to carry out “selective assassinations” of political and military leaders, Reverol tweeted.
The third detainee was wanted for planning attacks against military installations, he said.
Maduro has previously accused Colombia of training mercenaries in cooperation with the United States to stage attacks in Venezuela – allegations Bogota has denied.
Guaido has promised an amnesty to soldiers who help to oust Maduro.
“It is clear that Guaido’s message is reaching [the army],” said Rocio San Miguel from the rights group Control Ciudadano. Venezuelan soldiers “are pragmatic rather than idealistic and avoid confrontation in their ranks,” she added.
“If elements of the military with sufficient firepower were to break with Maduro, they could force him from power or oblige him to negotiate his departure from office,” wrote Phil Gunson from the International Crisis Group.
Three journalists – one from Spain and two from Colombia – working for the Spanish news agency EFE who had been arrested in Caracas were released, Colombia’s Foreign Ministry said.
Two French journalists who were detained in Venezuela were also released, the television programme they work for wrote on Twitter.