Venezuela’s Guaidó in Talks With Unions to Call Public Sector Strike

March 6, 2019 Updated: March 6, 2019

CARACAS—Venezuela interim President Juan Guaidó said on March 5 he was in talks with unions about calling strikes for state workers in a bid to paralyze the public sector, tightening pressure on the weakened leader Nicolas Maduro by targeting his key support base.

The strikes would seek to capitalize on the opposition’s momentum spurred by Guaidó’s triumphant return to Venezuela on March 4, after he flouted a travel ban to tour Latin American countries to muster support for his campaign to oust Maduro.

While Guaidó had publicly speculated that authorities would detain him when he returned, he passed through Caracas’s international airport without a problem. He then sped to a march where he mocked the government for letting him in so easily, telling the crowd, “Somebody didn’t follow an order.”

Guaidó has called on state officials, who have been historically pressured by the ruling Socialist Party to publicly back Maduro, to disavow the government, and has promised future amnesties for those that do.

“The moment has arrived and our call, our request, and our complete support for public employees, is to bring about this strike,” Guaidó told a news conference after meeting with state workers. He did not say when the strikes would be held.

Guaidó, recognized by most Western nations as Venezuela’s legitimate head of state, said the strikes would be staggered and aim to paralyze the public sector.

“It’s a proposal from the workers, that they aren’t going to keep collaborating with the regime,” Guaidó said.

Maduro’s government has yet to comment on Guaido’s return, which is unusual, considering top officials habitually make references to him on state television and in Twitter posts. Maduro accuses Guaidó of leading a U.S.-directed coup against him and has said he will “face justice.”

Guaidó said the government had not contacted him since his return.

Guaidó had secretly left Venezuela for Colombia, in violation of a Supreme Court order, to coordinate efforts there on Feb. 23 to send humanitarian aid into Venezuela to alleviate widespread shortages of food and medicine.

But troops blocked convoys of aid trucks sent from Colombia and Brazil, leading to clashes that killed at least six people along the Brazilian border, rights groups say.

Guaidó then visited Argentina, Brazil, Ecuador, and Paraguay to discuss with leaders his plan for a transition government ahead of holding a free and fair election.

Guaidó says Maduro’s presidency is illegitimate after he secured reelection last year in a vote widely considered a sham. Maduro retains control of state institutions and the loyalty of senior figures in the armed forces.

By Deisy Buitrago

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