CARACAS (Reuters) – Venezuela’s National Assembly approved a law returning the OPEC nation to a regional defence treaty on Tuesday, but opposition leader Juan Guaido sought to tamp down supporters’ hopes it could lead to President Nicolas Maduro’s imminent downfall.
Opposition hardliners had been pressuring Guaido to join the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance, signed in Rio de Janeiro in 1947, as a precursor to requesting a foreign military intervention to oust Maduro, a socialist who has overseen an economic collapse and is accused of human rights violations.
“The TIAR is not magic, it is not a button that we press and then tomorrow everything is resolved,” Guaido told a rally of supporters in Caracas, using the treaty’s Spanish initials.
“In itself it is not the solution – it obliges us to take to the streets with greater force to exercise our majority.”
The treaty states that an attack on one of the members – which include most large Western Hemisphere countries including the United States, Brazil and Colombia – should be considered an attack on all. Venezuela and other leftist Latin American countries left the alliance between 2012 and 2013.
Venezuela plunged into a deep power struggle in January when Guaido invoked the constitution to declare a rival presidency, arguing Maduro’s May 2018 re-election was illegitimate. He has been recognised as the rightful leader by most Western countries, including the United States.
Maduro, who calls Guaido a U.S. puppet seeking to oust him in a coup, remains in control of government functions six months into Guaido’s campaign. The economy and public services have continued to deteriorate in that time, and on Monday much of the country went dark in the biggest blackout since March.
That has led some Maduro opponents, such as former Caracas mayor Antonio Ledezma, to push Guaido to request foreign military intervention to oust Maduro.
U.S. officials have said a military option is “on the table” for Venezuela, but has so far focused on economic sanctions and diplomatic pressure to choke off cash flow to Maduro and try to convince top military officials to get behind Guaido.
Latin American and European countries are pushing a diplomatic solution to Venezuela’s political and economic crisis, and many have criticized the possible use of force.
Norway’s government is currently mediating negotiations between the government and the opposition in Barbados.
(Reporting by Mayela Armas, Shaylim Valderrama and Luc Cohen, Editing by Rosalba O’Brien)