Hours before the Sunday deadline set by some European countries for announcement of fresh elections in volatile Venezuela, its President Nicolas Maduro proposed advancing parliamentary polls to this year from 2020, multiple agencies report.
The move comes as Maduro wards off threats posed by the self-proclaimed ‘interim president’ Juan Guaido.
Addressing his supporters celebrating the 20th anniversary of the socialist revolution led by his predecessor Hugo Chavez in Caracas, Maduro said the opposition wants to bring forward elections and the government is ready to accept that challenge.
He warned the opposition that they will lose the majority in the elections.
Maduro said Guaido is a puppet of the US which, he said, is plotting to overthrow him.
As the plot thickened, a general of the Venezuelan air force defected on Saturday in protest against Maduro’s rule and urged his colleagues to follow suit.
In a YouTube video, Gen Francisco Yanez, said the transition to democracy is imminent. He described Maduro as a dictator and recognised Guaido as his president.
Yanez said 90% of the country’s armed forces are against Maduro but did not specify what percentage of them will support Guaido.
Accusing Yanez of treason, Pedro Alberto Juliac Lartiguez, the head of Venezuela’s air force, said the general had no soldiers under his command.
Guaido welcomed the defection by Yanez and told some 100,000 protesters gathered in Caracas that Maduro will soon be forced to step down.
Maduro hit back, saying he would continue his role as president adding that the armed forces are loyal to him.