- Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro recorded a lengthy livestream on Wednesday, talking about the state’s carnival plans and showing Venezuelans celebrating.
- It came four days after at least two people died and at least 300 more were injured in violent clashes over the government’s refusal to let in humanitarian aid.
- Meanwhile, self-declared interim president Juan Guaidó is planning to end his exile in Colombia, and mobilizing protests in Venezuela.
Venezuelan leader Nicolás Maduro on Wednesday tweeted a 40-minute-long livestream on Periscope about the government’s carnival preparations as the country further spirals into crisis.
Carnival – or “Carnaval” as known in Venezuela – is a big celebration celebrated before Lent every year, in which people dress up in costumes, dance, and attend parades with floats.
Maduro’s video came after a weekend of violent clashes when state forces barred activists from bringing in aid through the Colombian and Brazilian borders.
Police fired tear gas and pellets on protesters, killing at least two and injuring at least 300, The Associated Press (AP) reported. More than 300 Venezuelan soldiers defected and fled to Colombia after the unrest, the AP added.
But in his lengthy stream, Maduro primarily focused on his plans for a “safe carnival” in 2019. The video showed Venezuelans in costumes dancing and celebrating, as the president calls on ministers, governors and mayors to explain how the government will ensure smooth festivities.
— Nicolás Maduro (@NicolasMaduro) February 27, 2019
Maduro then mused about cute children in costumes before announcing that he will also dress up and join the celebration.
The leader is often criticised for organising big celebrations and performances, like salsa dancing, as a distraction from the humanitarian and economic crisis plaguing the nation.
Last Saturday he was slammed for dancing at a concert while government forces blocked the entry of food and medicine at the borders.
Maduro dances on national TV as national guards fire tear gas and plastic pellets at crowds trying to move humanitarian aid into the country along the Colombian border pic.twitter.com/4u4zEHDixi
— Patricia Laya (@PattyLaya) February 23, 2019
Maduro addressed his critics in his Wednesday livestream, saying: “The imperialists were mad that I was dancing. We [Venezuelans] always dance because we are a happy people and this is a revolution of joy.”
The video also showed images of pro-government rallies, with Maduro saying that the majority of Venezuelans oppose international intervention.
Maduro and his allies around the world – like Russia, China, and Syria – have opposed foreign support for his opponent Juan Guaidó, who declared himself Venezuela’s interim government last month.
Maduro also mocked Guaidó’s slogan while discussing Carnaval plans. “Vamos bien,” he said – Spanish for “we are making progress.”
Guaidó is currently exiled in Colombia, and has met with US Vice President Mike Pence and the Lima Group, a regional bloc established to end the Venezuelan crisis.
Guaidó told his supporters via video on Tuesday that he is currently planning his return to the Venezuelan capital of Caracas to mobilize his supporters. The exact date of his arrival and next steps will be made public in the coming days, he added.
He said he refuses “this compromise of having to fight from abroad,” referring to Colombia, and said that Maduro is “alone and desperate.”
No asumimos este compromiso para luchar desde afuera, por eso, pronto estaré en Venezuela para ejercer mis funciones como Presidente (E).
Haré circular un audio con las próximas instrucciones. Les pido que difundan masivamente nuestro mensaje
— Juan Guaidó (@jguaido) February 27, 2019
Guaidó also posted an audio message, urging his supporters to keep mobilizing and and announcing unspecified actions to garner support from military and government workers.
Though military leaders in Venezuela publicly backed Maduro last month, Guaidó has claimed that he had met some members of the military in secret.
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