Maduro Speaks to Troops, Trying to Discredit Guaidó’s Call for Mutiny

Maduro Speaks to Troops, Trying to Discredit Guaidó’s Call for Mutiny

Venezuela’s president sought to strengthen his image as the undisputed commander of the armed forces on Thursday, mustering troops in a televised show of authority days after the opposition tried to incite a military mutiny that fizzled within hours.

The president, Nicolás Maduro, was dressed in green fatigues and a cap as he waved and spoke to soldiers at a military base in Caracas, the capital. The event seemed intended to further contradict assertions by Juan Guaidó, the opposition leader, that the armed forces were switching their allegiance to him as the economy lurches toward collapse.

“Soldiers of the fatherland, it’s time to fight!” Mr. Maduro said to hundreds of soldiers at the Fuerte Tiuna base.

Mr. Guaidó, who leads the opposition-controlled National Assembly, declared himself interim president more than three months ago, asserting that Mr. Maduro was a corrupt, illegitimate and incompetent autocrat who had stifled dissent and remained in power through an election widely believed to be fraudulent.

“Guaidó still represents the majority, but we don’t know how much longer his honeymoon period will last, and the Teflon of public opinion begins to fall off for not resolving the problem of Maduro,” said Luis Vicente Leon, the director of the Caracas-based pollster Datanalisis. “If you resolve the problem, you’re a hero. If you don’t, you become another culprit.”

He said strikes were unlikely to topple Mr. Maduro, and could risk making workers more dependent on government handouts and angering Venezuela’s business community, which has been an important ally of Mr. Guaidó.

“You’re calling for a general strike at the worst economic moment in the nation’s history,” he said.

Others say they are worried Mr. Maduro would use strikes as a justification to seize what remains of Venezuela’s private sector.

“This will only generate anxiety and allow the government to expropriate shops,” said Emmanuel de Jesus, a shopkeeper in the town of Carrizal, on the outskirts of Caracas. “I don’t feel I have safety guarantees if I join the strike.”

Still, many opponents of Mr. Maduro continue to pin their hopes on Mr. Guaidó. Although he is a relative rookie of national politics, he has captivated much of the nation with his charisma, youthful energy and working-class roots.

“The opposition didn’t triumph, but it made a good step forward,” Lourdes Benitez, a 59-year-old university professor, said in describing the events of recent days. “The opposition hasn’t failed yet, they still have strength.”

Despite Mr. Maduro’s show of authority, supporters of Mr. Guaidó say he has punctured his rival’s aura of invincibility, giving them some hope that more rebellions will follow as the economy weakens further.

The opposition took some consolation on Tuesday from the apparent defection of Gen. Christopher Figuera, the head of the feared secret police, which had been seen as the most loyal branch of Mr. Maduro’s security apparatus.

“There is a lot of frustration but the hope continues,” said Irma Lopez, a retiree from the town of Los Teques, near Caracas. “The discontent in the armed forces will not go away. A lot of the middle ranks just don’t know who to obey.”

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