Maduro Extends Carnival. Defiant Venezuelans Go to Work Anyway

(Bloomberg) -- On Thursday, business as usual in Caracas was nothing of the sort.

Most Venezuelans in the capital showed up to work in quiet defiance of President Nicolas Maduro’s abrupt order that carnival holidays begin Thursday instead of next week. “The people have a right to happiness, sharing, dancing and life,” he said in a television broadcast last week.

But bakeries, kiosks, garages and restaurants were running. Buses and the usual sparse traffic wound through major avenues. Women and men in formal business attire hurried to work in Altamira’s business district and a long line of customers waited to purchase items like cornmeal and coffee from Jose Marquez’s kiosk in the Manzanares neighborhood.

“We are open and we’ll open again tomorrow, because that decision was not made by the president. Our president is another. Our president is Juan Guaido," said Carlos Vergara, who manages a pet shop in southeast Caracas.

Guaido, the 35-year-old head of the opposition-dominated National Assembly, is battling with Maduro over who is the legitimate head of state. He’s been recognized as acting president by more than 50 countries, but Maduro retains the loyalty of the military and, therefore, power.

Unbought and Unbossed

Guaido’s bid to bring humanitarian aid into the country was violently thwarted by Maduro’s supporters last weekend, and the lawmaker’s return to the country from Colombia is uncertain. Yet the young lawmaker’s rise has created confidence and optimism in the opposition that hadn’t been seen in years, and on Thursday, they showed their support just by showing up.

Maduro Extends Carnival. Defiant Venezuelans Go to Work Anyway

In a large advertising firm in the Sabana Grande commercial district, employees came to work despite a formal notice from management that Thursday and Friday would be holidays. They kept the window and display lights turned off and the lobby unmanned to avoid government harassment.

“Human resources came to our office and asked: ‘Who is your president?’ And we all answered: ‘Guaido’,” said Daniela Garcia, 22, who writes and produces commercials there. “We can’t rebuild our country without working."

In line at the Manzanares kiosk, Elizabeth Romero said Maduro can’t buy affection with days off.

“Maduro only wants people to forget that he burned humanitarian aid, but the crisis gets worse every day and his response is not to work? That’s why he has to go," she said. Others in line looked up from their mobile phones to nod and voice their support.

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