CARACAS – Venezuela’s interim President Juan Guaido met on Tuesday with union representatives and announced that he will launch a staggered strike within the public administration to continue exerting pressure to leave office on leftist incumbent Nicolas Maduro.
“We’re definitively moving toward a staggered strike in the public administration, a proposal made by the unions,” Guaido said at a press conference.
Guaido, who is also the National Assembly speaker, is recognized as Venezuela’s interim head of state by more than 50 nations.
He added that at the meetings the participants promised to “build their abilities so as not to continue collaborating with the dictatorship, so that public employees will not find themselves obligated to cooperate any more or to be forced to do anything” by the Maduro regime.
Guaido announced that starting Wednesday, the NA will begin meeting with the biggest union confederations, which gather together more than 600 unions, to coordinate future actions.
“We know that (the Maduro regime is) going to start with the threats, the persecution,” he said after criticizing the fact that Venezuela has been experiencing “indications of war” such as a contraction of the GDP by more than 50 percent and inflation exceeding 2,000 percent last year.
The opposition leader met on Tuesday with union members from the Foreign Ministry, state-run Corpoelec, telephone and oil companies, all of which are under the control of the Chavista regime.
“The pressure has barely begun, the social movement now is moving into the streets,” he said, noting that the workers’ “struggle” began before political tension skyrocketed in the country given that last year alone the unions mounted the most extensive labor conflict in the country’s history with dozens of protests.
One day after his return to Venezuela after a regional tour took him to Colombia, Brazil, Paraguay, Argentina and Ecuador, Guaido expressed his intention to make new trips to Europe.
“We’re evaluating the timing (of the trips), we’re evaluating it so that it’s within the framework of the whole process with an eye toward the transition, ... toward an election in Venezuela, to attending to the humanitarian emergency, and I’m sure that they’re also going to welcome us very soon in Europe,” he said.
On his South American tour, Guaido was received with the honors accorded to heads of state by governments that recognize him as Venezuela’s legitimate leader, and that is a status that he holds among most members of the European Union.
On Tuesday, he said that the risk of being arrested remains an “ongoing” possibility after he flouted the ban on leaving the country imposed by the Supreme Court, which recognizes Maduro as president.
“Action against me? OK, that’s ongoing every day and yesterday international organizations also denounced it ... That’s not the way, that would only accelerate (Maduro’s) exit, it would only accelerate the social (and) international support we have, which continues to grow each day,” he said.
Guaido said that he had not been arrested so far because the chain of command in the country’s security forces “is broken” because of Maduro’s lack of legitimacy.
Maduro won re-election last May in a vote deemed fraudulent since the main opposition figures had been barred from competing, among other reasons.
Meanwhile, Maduro called on Tuesday for anti-imperialist marches for next Saturday, when his detractors plan to demonstrate nationwide to continue pressuring for a change of government.
On the “day of US anti-imperialism ... we’re hitting the streets on March 9, with anti-imperialist marches to commemorate the day of anti-imperialism ... Everyone to the streets, everyone into the fight,” said the Chavista leader in remarks broadcast by all radio and television stations.
Maduro issued his call for his supporters to turn out in Caracas at the event commemorating the sixth anniversary of the death of his predecessor and mentor, Hugo Chavez, which was attended by several ministers and relatives of the late socialist leader.
Meanwhile in Washington, the US special envoy for Venezuela, Elliott Abrans, said on Tuesday that it was difficult to imagine a role for Maduro in building a “democratic Venezuela,” adding that “he had the opportunity to do so, but he did not.”
He said it was hard to see that Maduro could play a “positive” role in a democratic election, although he added that Venezuelans themselves would have to make the decision on the Chavista leader’s future role in the country.
Also in Washington, the US State Department said on Tuesday that not calling Guaido the “interim president” of Venezuela amounted to falling into the narrative of a dictatorship, and it urged the press to use the term for the opposition leader being employed by part of the international community.
State Department spokesman Robert Palladino said that the opposition-controlled Parliament is considered by the US administration to be the only democratic institution in Venezuela, and he congratulated Guaido on his “successful diplomatic efforts” on his recent South America tour.
He said that instead of calling Guaido an “opposition leader” or a “self-proclaimed president” – which he said were not correct – the media should refer to him as Venezuela’s “interim president.”