Venezuela’s opposition supporters will take to the streets for nationwide anti-government protests on Tuesday, ratcheting up the pressure on embattled President Nicolas Maduro.
It comes at a time when tensions in Venezuela are reaching boiling point, with the South American country in the midst of the Western Hemisphere’s worst humanitarian crisis in recent memory.
The anti-government demonstration, organized by opposition leader Juan Guaido, takes place on Youth Day in Venezuela.
The day commemorates young people who fought and died in the Battle of La Victoria in 1814 during Venezuela’s war for independence. It is widely recognized as a day to recognize the role that the youth play in shaping the country’s economic and social future.
Millions of students are reportedly expected to mobilize as part of a broader movement to protest the country’s government.
Diego Moya-Ocampos, principal political analyst for Latin America at IHS Markit, told CNBC via telephone on Tuesday that the Youth Day demonstration is unique for one overarching reason: “humanitarian aid.”
“This new wave of street protests is taking place at the same time as humanitarian aid is being placed on border areas while Maduro is blocking it,” Moya-Ocampos said.
“It could force a rupture of the armed forces loyal to Maduro because it puts the dilemma of what to do with food and medicine on them. What we have to watch out for is whether the military continues to block humanitarian aid or splits to let some through,” he added.
Late last week, Venezuela’s armed forces barricaded a bridge on the country’s Western border with Colombia, in a dramatic attempt to prevent a delivery of food and medicine.
Guaido had said previously the National Assembly was preparing to deliver tens of millions of dollars in humanitarian aid to help with a devastating shortage of basic products.
Supplies donated by the U.S. and others have been stockpiled in warehouses near the border in recent days.
However, only a limited amount of emergency supplies has made it into the country thus far.
The opposition’s proposed move is widely seen as an attempt to undermine Maduro’s authority. And major international relief organizations have said they are reluctant to assist with a delivery effort of humanitarian supplies, fearing the situation has become too political sensitive.
It has made getting basic products into Venezuela, past Maduro’s allied security forces and to those that need it most, extremely challenging.
Guaido tweeted a picture of himself surrounded by stacks of white pots of vitamin and nutritional supplements on Monday. He claimed his team had successfully delivered the first cargo of humanitarian aid, but did not explain where it came from.
“If Maduro can block humanitarian aid from coming into the country and keep the loyalty of security forces then he will move to shut down the National Assembly and put Guaido into jail or force him into exile,” IHS’ Moya-Ocampos said.
Pressure is building on Maduro to step down. The socialist leader has overseen a long economic meltdown, marked by hyperinflation, mounting U.S. sanctions and collapsing oil production.
As a result, some 3 million Venezuelans have fled abroad over the past five years to escape worsening living conditions.
More than 50 countries, including the U.S. and most Latin American and European countries, have now recognized Guaido as Venezuela’s rightful interim president.
It has thrust the oil-rich, but cash-poor, country into uncharted territory — whereby it now has an internationally-recognized government, with no control over state functions, running parallel to Maduro’s regime.