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Venezuela's Guaido starts domestic tour to stir support

AFP  |  Valencia (Venezuela) 

Venezuela's self-proclaimed began a tour of his country aimed at sparking a citizen's movement to pry from power.

As Guaido, 35, kicked off his "operation freedom" in the northern city of on Saturday, the pro-Maduro military staged the latest in a series of exercises.

The drill focused on defending from attack -- a reaction to a weeklong national blackout that Maduro blamed on US "sabotage" but experts said was more likely the result of years of neglect.

Guaido, the of the opposition-ruled whose claim to be caretaker is recognized by the US, and much of and Europe, vowed he would "very soon" take up office in Miraflores, the presidential palace.

He has been pushing for nearly two months against Maduro after declaring himself during street rallies by tens of thousands, following Maduro's swearing-in for a second term despite elections widely dismissed as a sham.

"We are going to reclaim what belongs to the people," Guaido told thousands of supporters on Saturday.

Maduro, he said, "believes that a thieving gang or a palace makes him president. It's only the support of our people that makes someone president of a nation and he doesn't have that.

And not much longer will he be in that palace." Guaido offered no timeline for the mobilization across Venezuela, which he said will culminate with a march on the presidential palace in

"I'm ready to over to Miraflores right now, wherever my asks me to go," said one of his supporters, Milagros Lima, 50, a She told AFP that her "whole family" are among the millions who have fled the country's dire shortages of and medicine.

"If it weren't for them, we'd be starving to death," she said.

on his tour are opposition lawmakers tasked with creating citizen assemblies "freedom cells" across the country. The opposition said that, by Saturday, around 50 had already been set up in half of Venezuela's 23 states.

"Whatever happens, we must be united, mobilized in the streets," Guaido said, adding that he has not ruled out asking the to activate a constitutional clause allowing foreign military intervention -- though such a move "depended on others."

That was taken as a reference to US military action, which US President has repeatedly refused to rule out, even though there is no sign such an operation is being mounted and US allies in oppose the idea.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Sun, March 17 2019. 07:50 IST