A Venezuelan military official publicly switched sides in the nation’s power struggle on Saturday, provoking a swift response from defense leaders.
Venezuela’s military attaché in Washington, Col. Jose Luis Silva Silva, told CNN that he’s breaking with President Nicolas Maduro and supporting Juan Guaido, the self-proclaimed interim president.
“I stand by the roadmap of acting President Juan Guaido,” Silva said on a video shared on social media.
Silva said the roadmap included “ceasing the usurpation of the executive power,” the “beginning of a transition to a new government” and “free and transparent elections for all Venezuelans who want to participate.”
That led the Venezuelan defense ministry to put out a critical tweet on the ministry’s official account. The tweet showed a screen grab from the video of Silva declaring his defection with the word “TRAIDOR” (traitor) emblazoned over it.
“Insubordination in the face of international interests is an act of treason and cowardice with the fatherland inherited from our liberator Simon Bolivar. As such, we reject the declarations made by Col. Jose Luis Silva Silva, who was acting as military attaché in the United States,” the defense ministry wrote on Twitter.
Also Saturday, the opposition-controlled National Assembly drafted an amnesty bill to protect military members who want to defect from the Maduro government. The measure would also offer pardons to civilians, politicians, public officials and military members accused during the governments of Hugo Chávez – who was President from 1999 to 2013 – and Maduro of committing crimes or supporting unconstitutional acts.
Lawmakers could vote on the bill as early as Tuesday.
Guaido has called on the nation’s military to work with him, but the head of Venezuela’s armed forces says he still supports Maduro.
Pompeo: It’s time ‘to pick a side’
The Venezuelan crisis was hotly debated Saturday on both sides of the Atlantic.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo urged the UN Security Council to stand behind Guaido’s transitional government.