The military attaché at the Venezuelan Embassy in Washington, Col. José Luis Silva, broke with the Nicolás Maduro regime Saturday and urged other armed forces members to recognize Juan Guaidó as the legitimate interim president of the South American nation.
“As the Venezuelan defense attaché in the United States, I do not recognize Mr. Nicolás Maduro as president of Venezuela,” Silva told el Nuevo Herald in a telephone interview from Washington, D.C.
“My message to all armed forces members, to everyone who carries a gun, is to please let’s not attack the people. We are also part of the people, and we’ve had enough of supporting a government that has betrayed the most basic principles and sold itself to other countries,” he added.
Silva, like all other Venezuelan diplomatic mission staffers in the United States, was ordered to return home after Maduro announced he was breaking diplomatic relations with Washington because it had recognized Guaidó as the legitimate president of Venezuela.
Saturday evening, Venezuela’s government backtracked on the order that gave all of the U.S. Embassy personnel 72 hours to leave the country.
The Foreign Affairs Ministry said that it is now negotiating the establishment of a U.S. Interests Office in Venezuela and will allow U.S. Embassy personnel to remain in the country while talks take place.
The statement said talks about an interest section will have a 30-day limit and if no agreement is reached embassy personnel will then have to leave the country.
Maduro’s order had been met with some resistance from the diplomatic mission staffers.
One diplomat at the Venezuelan consulate in Houston contacted Guaidó to report that she would not obey Maduro and would help him, the interim president announced Friday in Caracas.
Silva told el Nuevo Herald that the great majority of Venezuelan diplomats in the United States share his disapproval of Maduro.
Diplomacy is ‘prisoner of the minority’
“A high percentage of diplomats here do not agree with Maduro’s usurpation of power, but there’s always fear of what can happen to relatives in Venezuela and the uncertainty of what can happen in a foreign country,” said Silva, a colonel in the National Guard.
“Even diplomacy is now prisoner of the minority that has systematically seized control of the power in our country,” he added.
The fears of regime reprisals are shared by many armed forces members in Venezuela, but Silva stressed that honest military members must step forward because of Maduro’s usurpation of power following his allegedly fraudulent reelection.
“Enough! Leave aside the illegal control of our territory and the executive power. The leaders have become millionaires on the backs of the people,” he said. “Captains, commanders: Think about everyone who suffers. Don’t forget that your wives also can’t find milk for your children. Don’t forget that your mothers and fathers also can’t find pills for their [blood] pressure.”
“Enough already! Let’s recognize the man who under the law is the true president of Venezuela, Juan Guaidó,” he said.
This story was originally published January 26, 2019 3:48 PM.