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Guaido urges unity government backed by loans to fight virus

MIAMI – Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó called Saturday night for the creation of a "national emergency government" of diverse political leanings to fight the spread of the coronavirus with the assistance of $1.2 billion in international loans.

Speaking in a video released on Twitter, Guaidó said the unity government would not be headed by Nicolás Maduro, Venezuela's socialist leader who was indicted this week in the U.S. on narcoterrorism charges.

“Those who surround Maduro need to understand the gravity of the accusations,” Guaidó said. “It’s absolutely impossible under his usurpation to have any type of solution for the country or our families.”

But in a show of reconciliation, Guaidó, who is recognized as Venezuela’s lawful leader by the U.S. and almost other 60 countries, said opponents of Maduro need to be “realistic” and be prepared to share power.

As an incentive to members of the military and Venezuelans who still support Maduro, he said international financial institutions are prepared to support such a power-sharing arrangement with $1.2 billion in loans so Venezuela can fight the pandemic. He said the loans would be used to directly assist Venezuelan families who are expected to be harmed not only by the spread of the disease but also the economic shock from a collapse in oil prices, virtually the country's only source of hard currency.

“The consultations we’ve already made allow us to affirm that this is absolutely possible if we form an emergency government,” Guaidó said.

The International Monetary Fund recently rejected a similar $5 billion request from Maduro, saying there was a lack of clarity among its 189 members on whether Maduro or Guaidó is the legitimate leader of Venezuela.

Guaidó last September made a similar gesture, proposing a transitional government headed by neither him nor Maduro. The proposal went nowhere.

But with the already bankrupt country running out of gasoline and seeing bouts of looting amid the coronavirus, calls have been growing for both the opposition and Maduro to set aside their bitter differences to head off a nightmare scenario.

There was no immediate comment from Maduro about the video. But in recent days he has said he is willing to work with the opposition, if not Guaidó specifically, to address the coronavirus emergency.

"You say you don't recognize me,” Maduro said. “I don't care that you don't recognize me. What matters to me is that we work for Venezuela toward reaching an agreement for the benefit of Venezuela."

The United Nations said Venezuela could be one of the nations hit hardest by the spread of the coronavirus, designating it a country for priority attention due to a health system marked by widespread shortages of medical supplies and lack of water and electricity.

The coronavirus has so far claimed two victims and left another 119 people infected in the South American country.