Feb. 2 (UPI) -- Tens of thousands of people protested in Venezuela's streets Saturday in a push to oust President Nicolas Maduro shortly after a military general broke with him.
Maduro was sworn in for a new term last month amid protests over allegations of vote-rigging. The election also attracted controversy over the jailing of opposition candidates. The National Assembly declared Maduro's presidency illegitimate, pronouncing his office vacant and proclaiming the legislative body's president Juan Guaido as Venezuela's interim president in accordance with constitutional provisions.
The street protesters in Caracas on Saturday were mostly backing opposition leader Guaido, who the United States has also recognized as interim president. They were pushing for Maduro's ouster from power at home while signaling to other nations to consider supporting Guaido as the country's leader, The Washington Post reported.
Before the protests, Venezuelan Air Force General Francisco Esteban Yanez Rodgriguez broke with Maduro and called on the military to back Guaido.
In a video message circulating on El Nacional and social media, Gen. Yanez Rodriguez said he disavowed Maduro as a "dictatorial authority" and recognized Guaido as president.
"Ninety-percent of the Armed Forces are not with the dictator, they are with the people of Venezuela," the general added.
Maduro also brought counter protesters out to the streets for rallies marking 20 years of socialist rule, but they were mostly overwhelmed by the size of opposition marches.
"We are marching because we can't take this situation any more," said Carmen Sanchez, a 42-year-old woman who lives in the slum of Petare, as she joined the opposition crowds that appeared to number at least in the tens of thousands, if not more. "We don't have enough money for food. This government has to resign for Venezuela to be beautiful again and I have faith Guaido will bring us success."