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Venezuela’s Highest Ranking Military Diplomat Breaks with Nicolas Maduro

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WASHINGTON –  Venezuela’s military attache in Washington has broken with Nicolas Maduro and says he now will report to an opposition leader trying to wrest control of the government.

In a video published Saturday, Col. Jose Luis Silva called on other members of the military to join him in defecting from Maduro’s government, saying they need to avoid “attacking” protesters whose only aim is to feed themselves.

“As the Venezuelan defense attaché in the United States, I do not recognize Mr. Nicolás Maduro as president of Venezuela,” Silva told el Nuevo Herald in a telephone interview from Washington, D.C.

“The armed forces have a fundamental role to play in the restoration of democracy,” Silva said in the video which he said was shot at his office in the Venezuelan embassy in Washington, sitting in front of the nation’s red, blue and yellow flag.

Venezuela’s top commanders have pledged loyalty to Maduro’s government in the days since National Assembly President Juan Guaido declared himself interim leader with the aim of calling new elections in accordance with the constitution.

But support for Maduro’s rule is weaker among the rank and file, whose households are suffering from widespread shortages and hyperinflation like their civilian counterparts.

Meanwhile, Venezuela’s government has backtracked on an order that gave U.S. Embassy personnel 72 hours to leave the country.

The Foreign Affairs Ministry said that it is now negotiating the establishment of a U.S. Interests Office in Venezuela and will allow U.S. Embassy personnel to remain in the country while talks take place.