Venezuelan military envoy to US denounced as ‘traitor’ by Caracas after breaking with Maduro govt

27 Jan, 2019 08:19 / Updated 10 months ago
Venezuela’s military attaché to Washington has been labeled a traitor by Caracas after he refused an order to return home and announced his support for the US-backed, self-proclaimed interim president, Juan Guaido.

In a video shared on social media, Colonel José Luis Silva urged fellow members of the Venezuelan military to follow his lead by recognizing Guaido, the opposition leader backed by the United States government.

He accused the “top brass of the military and executive branch” of “holding the armed forces hostage,” and called on his “brothers in the armed forces of the nation to recognize President Juan Guaido as the only legitimate president.”

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Recorded at the Venezuelan Embassy in Washington, the video endorsed Guaido’s “roadmap” for the embattled South American state, which includes “ceasing the usurpation of the executive power,” and the “beginning of a transition to a new government.”

Responding to Silva’s defection, the Venezuelan Defense Ministry tweeted out photos of the military envoy stamped with the word “traidor” (traitor).

“Insubordination in the face of international interests is an act of treason and cowardice with the fatherland inherited from our liberator Simon Bolivar. As such, we reject the declarations made by Col. Jose Luis Silva, who was acting as military attaché in the United States,” the defense ministry wrote.

Silva, just like the entire Venezuelan diplomatic corps in the US, received orders from Caracas to return to the Bolivarian Republic within 72 hours, after President Nicolas Maduro severed relations with Washington.

However, Maduro revised his demand that all US Embassy staff leave Venezuela by Saturday. Instead, the two countries will seek an agreement to create “Interest Offices” in the place of formal embassies. If an agreement is not reached, remaining diplomatic staff from both nations will have to return home.

While US media have seized on Silva’s dramatic defection, it’s not clear whether his message resonates back home. The Venezuelan military continues to back Maduro, and will hold massive military drills in early February to serve as a deterrence against a potential foreign intervention.

Guaido, who heads Venezuela’s National Assembly, proclaimed himself “interim president” of Venezuela on Wednesday, sparking both pro and anti-government demonstrations.

Washington, which urged Guaido to break with Caracas, was the first to recognize the unelected “president,” with over a dozen countries following suit. On Saturday, France, Germany, and Spain simultaneously issued near verbatim ultimatums announcing their readiness to recognize Guaido as the legitimate leader of Venezuela, unless the country holds snap presidential elections within eight days.

Moscow - among a number of other states - has stood by the Maduro government. Russia has also called on the United Nations Security Council to probe what it believes is a US-backed coup in Venezuela.

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