Venezuela's Maduro, Guaido Vie for Military Support Amid Protest

(Bloomberg) -- Venezuela’s embattled president and his rival continued to vie for military support as the nation’s crisis appears to have reached a new and more critical phase.

Nicolas Maduro visited a military base on Saturday for the third straight day, working to shore up support among members of the nation’s most important institution. Meanwhile, National Assembly President Juan Guaido, who led a failed uprising earlier this week that also took place partly at a military installation, planned to court soldiers on Saturday.

“We’re not a weak country but one with a strong armed forces that has to show itself as united and cohesive as ever,” Maduro said on state television at around 9 a.m. local time. “Say no to traitors, out traitors, unity and supreme loyalty to the Constitution, the Fatherland, the revolution and to its legitimate commander-in-chief,” he said, asking soldiers to raise their weapons in the air.

Tension continues to run high after the failed attempt to overthrow Maduro and the so-called Lima Group, meeting Friday in Peru’s capital, decided to enlist Cuba in brokering a solution to the turmoil. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau joined a group of 14 Latin American countries in turning to Venezuela’s closest ally to try to move forward from a standoff that’s also drawing in Russia.

Maduro rode in a military convoy, shook hands with officials and inspected AK-103 assault rifles with officers at a training center in El Pao in Cojedes state, around 200 miles from Caracas. State television also showed Maduro walking on dirt roads flanked by hundreds of uniformed soldiers after commanders briefed him on military issues. There were 3,500 soldiers at the site, according to state television.

Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino, who U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton said had privately backed a transition in leadership, was present at the Saturday morning activities. Maduro wrote on Twitter last night that he met with generals and admirals who vowed to defend “national sovereignty with loyalty and patriotism.”

Guaido, considered the country’s legitimate leader by the U.S. and around 50 other countries, said on Friday that supporters would hand out a letter to members of the military at a nationwide protest on Saturday calling on them to support Maduro’s ouster. The outreach is part of a broader campaign that includes conversations with officials of every rank, Guaido said.

He posted an image about today’s protest on Twitter saying: “The people and the national armed forces will rescue Venezuela!”

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