A Venezuelan general, Ramon Rangel, called on the country’s armed forces on Sunday to rise up against the Nicolas Maduro, who has relied on the backing of the military to hold on to power despite an economic collapse.
Rangel, who identified himself as an air force general of the Fuerza Armada Nacional Bolivariana (FANB), said the Venezuelan government is being controlled by the “communist dictatorship” in Cuba – a key Maduro ally.
“We have to find a way to get rid of the fear, to go out into the streets, to protest, and to seek a military union to change this political system,” Rangel, with a copy of the constitution in his hand, said in a video posted on YouTube.
“It’s time to rise up.”
While Rangel’s pronouncement marks another blow to Maduro after a handful of similar defections by senior officers this year, there is little to indicate that Rangel will tip the scales.
Officers who have disavowed Maduro have fled the country and the military top brass – most notably those who command troops – continues to recognize Maduro.
Air Force Commander Pedro Juliac posted a picture of Rangel on Twitter on Sunday with the words “traitor to the Venezuelan people and the revolution” printed across the image.
Otro general venezolano abandonó al dictador Maduro: “No más castrocomunismo en Venezuela”
Ramón Rangel publicó un video en el que llama a la Fuerza Armada de Venezuela a ponerse del lado de la Constitución y a dejar de ser “serviles a una persona o parcialidad política”y a Cuba pic.twitter.com/amby08kgNg
— pol2015 (@margaritapolim1) May 13, 2019
Rangel was an active military officer who fled to Colombia last month, according to a source close to Venezuela’s military who asked not to be identified.
Unlike other officers who have made similar pronouncements, Rangel did not voice support for Juan Guaido -the opposition leader and self-proclaimed president of Venezuela, who invoked the constitution in January, arguing that Maduro’s 2018 re-election was a fraud.
More than 50 countries, including the United States, Europe and most South American nations, call Guaido Venezuela’s legitimate leader.
Guaido on April 30 asked Venezuelans to rise up and the military to turn against Maduro, but the military never joined and the uprising collapsed.
Maduro called the event a coup attempt led by the United States