Thousands of people participated in opposition-led, anti-government demonstrations across Venezuela called by self-proclaimed interim president Juan Guaidó on Saturday, February 2, demanding that embattled President Nicolás Maduro step down from office. In Caracas, Guaidó rallied supporters, declaring that anti-government protests would continue until Maduro is ousted from the presidency. Maduro supporters also gathered in the capital to stage a counterdemonstration commemorating the 20th anniversary of former President Hugo Chávez's accession to power.
Saturday's demonstrations came as a high-ranking Venezuelan Air Force general disavowed Maduro and publicly expressed support for Guaidó, calling on other military members to defect to the political opposition. Maduro, in a speech Saturday, also notably floated holding parliamentary elections - originally slated for 2020 - this year, in a move that opposition critics derided as irrelevant and provocative.
Additional opposition-led protests are to be expected in Caracas and elsewhere across Venezuela over the coming days and weeks as the political crisis continues. A heightened security presence and transportation disruptions are to be expected near demonstration sites. Associated clashes between security forces and opposition protesters are likely.
The current crisis was spurred by Maduro's inauguration to a second term as president on January 10 following last year's contested election, prompting the National Assembly to declare a national emergency. Many foreign governments, including the US, Canada, and Brazil, among others, have since recognized opposition leader Juan Guaidó as the interim head of state. Guaidó indicated that opposition leadership is in contact with military officials to discuss forcing Maduro out, although he has declined to provide additional details.
Individuals in Venezuela are advised to monitor the situation, avoid all public demonstrations due to the risk of violence and arrest, refrain from discussing political topics in public, and adhere to all instructions issued by their home governments.
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