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Venezuela’s Guaido announces public sector strike against Maduro

Venezuela’s Guaido announces public sector strike against Maduro
Venezuelan opposition leader and self-proclaimed acting President Juan Guaido speaks at a news conference in Caracas on Tuesday. (Federico Parra / AFP/Getty Images)

Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido on Tuesday announced a public sector strike to increase pressure on President Nicolas Maduro to give up power.

“Public sector employees, workers, trade unions will not continue cooperating with … a regime that jails and persecutes them,” Guaido said at a meeting with union leaders in Caracas.

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He told journalists a “gradual” strike involving “all the sectors” had been proposed by workers, who would announce its start date.

Guaido, who in January declared himself interim president, promised union representatives that employees who turn against Maduro would be granted “amnesty.”

The opposition leader has made a similar offer to the army. Hundreds of soldiers have defected and crossed into neighboring Colombia, but Maduro appears to have the loyalty of military leaders.

Maduro, who won a second term in an election last year that is widely criticized as a sham, has presided over an economic meltdown that has led to shortages of food and medicine and the flight of more than 3 million Venezuelans.

His army blocked attempts last month to bring humanitarian aid into the country across the Colombian and Brazilian borders.

Guaido returned to Caracas on Monday after a Latin America tour aimed at mustering support for his campaign to bring aid to Venezuela, oust Maduro and stage fresh elections.

Maduro had suggested that Guaido could be arrested for having violated a travel ban imposed by the Supreme Court, but the opposition leader was allowed to pass through the main Caracas airport.

Guaido then went on to address a rally of thousands of supporters, announcing a new round of anti-government protests for Saturday.

Maduro late on Tuesday advised his supporters “not to pay attention” to the opposition, which he referred to as “the crazy minority.”

“We cannot give in to provocations … there they are with their child's games,” Maduro said at an event paying tribute to his predecessor Hugo Chavez, according to broadcaster NTN24 and other media.

The president also called an “anti-imperialist” protest to coincide with the opposition rallies on Saturday.

Maduro’s vice president, Delcy Rodriguez, told Russian state media that Guaido is “trying to seize power” upon the “direct order” of Washington.

Guaido declared himself interim president in January and has received the backing of about 60 countries, including the United States, which warned of repercussions if he was arrested.

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