US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo issued a direct appeal to the Venezuelan people on Saturday, urging them to drive President Nicolas Maduro from power and telling them “the time for transition is now.”
“You can hold your institutions, your military and their leaders to the highest standards and demand a return to democracy,” Pompeo said in the video message, released as Maduro urged his troops to be “ready” for potential US military action.
“The United States stands firmly with you in your quest,” added Pompeo, whose appeal came as opposition leader Juan Guaido made a new push for the Venezuelan armed forces to abandon Maduro.
Maduro tells armed forces to be ‘ready’
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro called on the armed forces to be “ready” in the event of a US military offensive against the South American country, in a speech to troops on Saturday.
Maduro called on the military “to be ready to defend the homeland with weapons in your hands if one day the US empire dares to touch this territory, this sacred earth.”
His speech at a military base in the northwest, where he appeared alongside Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino, came as opposition leader Juan Guaido rallied his supporters in a new day of protests to press the armed forces to support his bid to dislodge Maduro.
Earlier this week, Guaido tried to incite a military insurrection but it quickly fizzled out as a group of 25 rebel soldiers sought refuge in the Brazilian embassy in Caracas.
Maduro had responded to that by insisting the military high command had reasserted its loyalty to him.
“I told the generals and admirals yesterday: loyalty, I want an active loyalty ... I trust you, but keep your eyes open, a handful of traitors cannot tarnish the honor, the unity, the cohesion and the image of the armed forces,” the president said in his speech broadcast on public radio and television.
The socialist leader accused Guaido -- recognized by more than 50 countries as Venezuela’s interim president -- of trying to launch a “coup d’etat.”
Despite Guaido’s best efforts, the military has remained loyal to Maduro.
His appeal came during a week in which US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had warned Caracas that “military action is possible.”
Despite repeatedly alluding to such an intervention, Washington has so far limited its actions to ramping up sanctions against key figures in the Maduro regime, as well as state oil company PDVSA.