Venezuelans abroad join protests as Guaido aims to revive anti-Maduro campaign
Hundreds of people from the Venezuelan diaspora joined thousands of their countrymen in Caracas in protests to support opposition leader Juan Guaido who aims to reignite the campaign to force President Nicolas Maduro from power.
Protesters across cities in Europe, including London and Oslo, waved Venezuela's red, yellow and blue flag on Saturday as they chanted for the removal of Maduro's socialist government.
Speaking to Al Arabiya English from London, Venezuela's opposition ambassador to the UK Vanessa Neumann said there was hope the recent events in Bolivia would help push for a determination to galvanize the protest movement.
“I think that what happened with Bolivia with Evo Morales leaving Bolivia and the restoration of democracy, that has been a big inspiration. Of course, it's hard to motivate people who are hungry, who have to decide what child needs to eat every morning. Mothers have to face that difficult choice which of their children eats and which one doesn't or where they can get clean water. This is all the effect of Maduro,” Neumann told Al Arabiya English after leading a protest of the Venezuelan diaspora in London.
A large crowd rallied around Guaido in a peaceful protest on Saturday. In his speech, Guaido urged supporters to remain in the streets in the days ahead, pointing to the recent upheaval in Bolivia, where 18 days of protests prompted the resignation of Maduro’s ally, Evo Morales.
“If we stay at home, we will lose,” Guaido said before marching peacefully with a small group of supporters to the Bolivian Embassy in eastern Caracas, an opposition stronghold.
“Today, tomorrow and Monday — we will be in the streets,” he added.
The United Nations Human Rights office has urged Venezuelan authorities to allow peaceful protests without any acts of intimidation and violence.
On January 23, Guaido assumed presidential powers pending new elections, with the United States and more than 50 other countries endorsing his move.
Washington has also implemented a sanctions program that has crippled Venezuela's oil exports in a bid to stifle the Maduro government.
Broadening support from the Middle East
Observers of the ongoing protests have attempted at drawing similarities between Venezuela and countries like Lebanon and, more recently, Iran over demands from the masses for a better quality of life.
Venezuela's collapsing economy has spurred an exodus of more than four million seeking better access to food and medicine. The country's hyperinflation, along with the deterioration of electricity, water, and transportation services, has left many exhausted from simply getting through their day.
“I think that what you see also in Iran and Lebanon and what is similar to Venezuela, every country has its own specific dynamics. I think that but the situation in Venezuela is a particular horror show. But the similarity with all these other movements is that there is very much a youth-driven one with young populations that feel that the political class is not responsive to their needs. That the economy has been mismanaged and that there is huge corruption,” Neumann said.
Neumann added that in the coming weeks, the opposition government said it will be aiming to build a broader coalition of international support, including those from the Middle East.
“We need to have a united front so that Maduro and his cohorts get on an airplane and out of the country like Morales did, and let us transition back. More specifically, we are looking also to build a sharp and strong relationship with the Middle East. We want to grow our coalition across the Middle East, specifically the Gulf, our OPEC partners and in Africa and Asia. We also need the international partners to speak as one,” Neumann said.