Guaido makes new appeal to Venezuela army ahead of Mayday protests

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Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido addresses supporters in Caracas on April 27, 2019

Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido addresses supporters in Caracas on April 27, 2019 (AFP Photo/Federico Parra )

Caracas (AFP) - Venezuela's opposition leader Juan Guaido used his latest mass rally on Saturday to reiterate an appeal to the army to end its support for Nicolas Maduro's regime, and announced massive Mayday protests to oust the embattled president.

Guaido told supporters at the rally in Caracas that the support of the army was "fundamental" to oust Maduro, "but time is passing and the wait cannot be eternal."

He reminded military leaders they have "a historic opportunity resting on their shoulders."

Despite support from more than 50 states who recognize him as interim president, US-backed Guaido has been unable to affect Maduro's grip on the military, which continues to keep him in power, along with allies China and Russia.

Guaido will aim to keep up the street pressure on the regime with a huge Mayday protest on Wednesday that he said would be "the largest in the country's history."

At his rally on Saturday, he held a swearing-in ceremony for "freedom commandos" -- volunteers he has put in charge of organizing ongoing protests against the government.

The government has also called for mass pro-Maduro demonstrations to be held as part of its annual Mayday parade.

On Saturday, several thousand Maduro supporters flocked onto the streets, responding to the ruling socialist PSUV party's call to "celebrate" Venezuela's exit from the Organization of American States.

Caracas announced in 2017 that it would leave the organization which it accuses of participating in a US-directed campaign to destabilize the government.

"The hard-core people are mobilizing to celebrate our final withdrawal from the US Colonial Office: the OAS," Maduro scoffed in a message on Twitter.

The last Maduro envoys at the embassy left after the OAS voted on April 10 to accept Guaido's envoy to represent Venezuela at the Washington-based body until new presidential elections can be held.

Leftist firebrand Maduro has presided over a crumbling economy in which inflation is projected to soar to a mind-boggling 10 million percent this year, with millions of Venezuelans having fled in the face of a shortage of basic goods.

Washington has hit Venezuela with a raft of sanctions aimed at cutting off financial support for Maduro and his top officials. An oil embargo comes into effect on Sunday.