Venezuela's Guaido calls for emergency government to manage impact of coronavirus

·2 min read

By Brian Ellsworth and Vivian Sequera

CARACAS, March 29 (Reuters) - Venezuela should form an emergency government made up of the opposition and some members of the ruling Socialist Party to receive foreign aid needed to confront the coronavirus outbreak, opposition leader Juan Guaido said in an interview on Sunday.

President Nicolas Maduro has been broadly discredited among Western nations after his disputed 2018 re-election, leaving few foreign financiers willing to provide funds to improve a health care system decimated by years of economic crisis.

Guaido, who has been recognized by more than 50 nations as the country's rightful president, said a coalition government would be able to convince multilateral agencies to provide $1.2 billion in financing to address the outbreak.

"It's crucial that we attend to the country's health emergency, to increase the number of hospital beds and ventilators, to provide (water) for hospitals," Guaido said in a video interview, referencing the lack of running water in many public medical facilities.

"We have an existing humanitarian emergency in Venezuela, which will worsen the pandemic."

The emergency government would not include Maduro or other top allies, he said, a group of whom were indicted by the U.S. Department of Justice on Thursday on accusations of narco-terrorism. He declined to reveal the names of potential participants.

Maduro has dismissed Guaido as a puppet of the United States and in the past has rebuffed calls to step aside. He denies charges of involvement in the drug trade.

Venezuela's information ministry did not immediately reply to a request for comment on Guaido's proposal.

Guaido in 2019 called on the country's military to rise up against Maduro to end the country's economic crisis and create a transition government, but the military's top brass stuck with Maduro despite the country's economic crisis.

Humanitarian organizations have for years said Venezuela is suffering widespread hunger due to an economic collapse that has fueled the migration of nearly 5 million people since 2015.

Maduro last year blocked Guaido's allies from bringing U.S.-backed humanitarian aid into the country via neighboring Colombia, describing the effort as a veiled invasion.

Delivering aid has also been complicated by the broad questioning of Maduro's legitimacy and accusations that he and his allies are involved in illicit activities.

"Nobody will lend money to a drug trafficker," Guaido said.

Venezuela as of Sunday had reported 129 cases of coronavirus and 3 deaths, and the country remains under quarantine ordered by Maduro to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

Opposition critics have said the quarantine will be unsustainable for a population that has suffered years of malnutrition, and due to growing gasoline shortages that have made complicated food deliveries. (Reporting by Brian Ellsworth and Vivian Sequera; editing by Richard Pullin)