The latest senior military officer to defect from the Nicolas Maduro government claims that 90% of the armed forces are “unhappy” with Maduro and stand ready to defect, according to The Times.
Colonel Rubén Paz Jimenez posted a short video to social media over the weekend declaring his support for US-backed opposition leader Juan Guaidó. “Ninety per cent of us in the armed forces are really unhappy,” he said in the video message. “We are being used to keep them in power.” He further urged soldiers to resist orders to block humanitarian aid shipped by the United States and to instead facilitate its entry into the country.
According to The Times Col. Paz is a military doctor and appears to be taking advantage of Guaido’s offer of amnesty to army officers who switch loyalties to him as interim president:
A stockpile of US aid — medicines, medical equipment and nutritional supplements — is in the Colombian border city of Cucuta. Colonel Paz, a doctor, urged soldiers to help the aid get into Venezuela. Mr Guaidó has offered amnesty to those in the army who abandon Mr Maduro, 56, peacefully.
He’s been further described as deputy of the Directorate of the Military Hospital in Maracaibo and the timing of his defection is interesting given the contested issue of US humanitarian aid.
Colonel Ruben Paz Jimenez, deputy of the Directorate of the Military Hospital in Maracaibo, announced his support for Guaido and urged others to follow:
The Times report noted the Venezuelan pharmaceutical association has put the situation of medicine access to the population at extreme crisis levels:
The Venezuelan pharmaceutical association has said that 80 per cent of medicines are in short supply. Most Venezuelans report involuntary weight loss over the past two years, and three million people — almost a tenth of the population — have left since 2014. The economy has collapsed and inflation is estimated at 2.7 million per cent.
Meanwhile the socialist government in Caracas insists it isn’t experiencing a humanitarian crisis; instead Maduro has slammed US aid to the country as a “political show”.
The United States urged the UN to act by presenting a draft resolution before the security council demanding that Venezuelan forces unblock the aid at the border, reportedly coming via Brazil and US ally Colombia, in order for the people to access it. Russia is expected to block the resolution.