On Saturday, huge numbers of Venezuelans took to the streets — most of them to show their support for opposition leader Juan Guaidó. A smaller contingency came out in support of President Nicolás Maduro, to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the rise to power of his predecessor, Hugo Chávez.
Scenes from the two sides illustrate the deep divisions that have emerged in Venezuela in recent weeks, after Guaidó declared himself interim president and Maduro refused to step down. Marches in support of Guaidó, the 35-year-old head of the opposition-controlled National Assembly, appear to have attracted massive crowds of demonstrators — holding signs calling for fair elections and sovereign democracy — in Caracas and other cities around the country.
In recent years, Venezuela has been submerged in a state of political and humanitarian turmoil. Millions fled the country as migrants and refugees, escaping hyperinflation that made the costs of basic goods soar. The country’s health system has also disintegrated.
When Guaidó declared himself interim president, the United States quickly threw its support behind him.
In Venezuela, Maduro still has the support of the military. But early on Saturday, just before the planned demonstrations, an acting Venezuelan air force general switched sides, throwing his support behind Guaidó in a widely circulated video on social media. In the short clip, he says that “90 percent of the armed forces are not with the dictator.” The Venezuelan air force responded on Twitter calling the general a traitor and claiming he “has no leadership at the air force.”
These photos offer a glimpse into what the massive demonstrations look like.