Venezuela’s self-declared interim president Juan Guaido has declined offers from the presidents of Mexico and Uruguay to mediate talks with embattled President Nicolas Maduro as the country braces for massive protests on Saturday.
In an open letter published Friday, Guaido urged the leaders to choose the “right side of history” amid the crisis in Venezuela.
“At this historical moment in our country, to be neutral is to be on the side of a regime that has condemned hundreds of thousands of human beings to misery, hunger, exile and even death,” he wrote.
The leader of the opposition-controlled National Assembly declared himself acting president of Venezuela last week, invoking a constitutional rule to open a rare challenge to Maduro’s claim to the presidency.
The announcement was recognized by more than a dozen countries, including the United States. Mexico and Uruguay called for an international conference of neutral countries to facilitate talks between Maduro and the opposition next week.
Guaido said he was declining the invitation on behalf of Venezuelans, the country’s democratic institutions and the National Assembly and noted that they won’t participate in negotiations “to keep human rights violators in power.”
Maduro began a six-year presidential term last month. He has asserted last year’s elections were fair, but international observers have questioned their legitimacy.
Guaido has promised a transitional government and free elections to end the rule of the socialist Maduro regime, which has overseen the once-wealthy oil nation’s descent into economic collapse and a humanitarian crisis.
Massive protests led by the opposition are expected in Caracas and other Venezuelan cities again on Saturday. Venezuelans took to the streets Wednesday calling for Maduro to step down.
Maduro reaffirms military’s loyalty
Speaking to Venezuela’s National Guard, Maduro urged soldiers to maintain their loyalty to his government, dismissing an offer from the opposition to join them.
Maduro spoke in Macarao, a district in the capital of Caracas, flanked by his minister of defense and several top military officials on Friday.
Writing in an opinion piece in the New York Times on Thursday, Guaido said that any transition of power could not happen without support from “key military contingents.”
Guaido has told CNN that he has been in talks with members of the military but did not present a clear plan of how he would get them to withdraw their support from Maduro.
CNN’s Stefano Pozzebon reported from Caracas and Nicole Chavez wrote in Atlanta. CNN’s Mohammed Tawfeeq, AJ Davis and journalist Jorge Luis Perez Valery also contributed to this report.