Nearly three weeks after the Trump government had consented to a relentless effort to oust President Nicolás Maduro, the struggling socialist leader stood firm for the predictions of an imminent dead man.
Dozens of countries have recognized opposition leader Juan Guaidó's claim to the presidency and the United States has tightened sanctions to remove billions of dollars in oil revenues. But anti-Maduro demonstrations took shape and large-scale military defections did not materialize.
With the United States considering military action only as a last resort, Guaidó is trying to regain his momentum by attempting this week to move food and emergency drugs to Venezuela, despite the fact that he has not been able to do so. Mr. Maduro's commitment to block it.
Such an operation could provoke a dangerous confrontation at the border – or dissipate and leave Maduro even stronger.
According to analysts, Guaidó is under increasing pressure to overthrow Maduro.
"He's running against the clock," said Daniel Lansberg-Rodriguez, a Venezuelan expert at Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. "Expectations are very high – not just among Venezuelans, but also with international allies – that it is a crisis that can be resolved quickly."
Despite the largest oil reserves in the world, Venezuela suffers from malnutrition, disease and violence after 20 years of socialist rule by the late President Hugo Chávez. Critics accuse Maduro, a former bus driver and hand-picked successor of Mr. Chavez, of having unfairly won the elections last year for a second six-year term by banning his popular rivals from run and imprison other people.
Mr. Guaidó was a virtually unknown legislator until last month, when he took the helm of the opposition-controlled National Assembly. He has gathered masses of Venezuelans in street protests that have killed at least 40 people since he declared himself acting president on 23 January.
Guaidó has so far avoided arrests, but the Comptroller General announced Monday the opening of an investigation into the holdings of Guaidó as part of a further escalation of the confrontation between the Government and the National Assembly.
Guaidó has secured the support of nearly 50 countries around the world, including the United States, who have pledged $ 20 million in initial support and have already shipped food and emergency medicine to the border town of Cucuta. , in Colombia, where they are stored.
Maduro has refused any economic aid, denying the economic crisis in Venezuela – and claiming that this aid is part of a coup orchestrated by the White House to overthrow it.
Maduro made a supervision demonstration of military operations almost daily on public television. He jogs with troops in formation, rides an amphibious tank and defeats what he says is an imminent American invasion that he compared to a Latin American Vietnam.
On Monday, the head of the Venezuelan Socialist Party, Diosdado Cabello, spoke at a rally in the Venezuelan border town of Ureña, facing Cúcuta, invading the streets with Maduro loyalists wearing red shirts of the Socialist Party and waving flags.
Addressing the crowd, Cabello claimed that Venezuelans were telling him not to yield to pressure from the United States, saying that they were willing to endure whatever they needed to stay in the country. Protected from imperialist power. He added that US supplies had been sent to a spectacular showcase to justify a coup d'etat.
"This is not help, it is not humanitarian," he said to the applause of about 1,000 Maduro supporters, including civilians and soldiers.
Romulo Jaimes, a resident of Ureña, said that the socialist meeting was not what it seemed to be. He added that more than 30 buses were parked outside the demonstration and carried the acclaimed Cabello crowd.
"In reality, it was a failure," he said. "Most people in this city did not attend the rally."
US humanitarian aid is stored in a warehouse on the other side of the river, after the socialist rally, which also places Maduro in a difficult situation, said Eric Farnsworth of the Council of the Americas and the American Society , a think tank based in Washington.
"If you let him in, you will give greetings to Guaidó and to the international community," he said. "If you do not do it, you are seen as a tyrant."
President Trump said all options were on the table regarding Maduro's ouster, but Farnsworth said a US military deployment was highly unlikely, as such a decision would make the US responsible for Long-term food supply and reconstruction of the devastated country.
The US sanctions imposed on the national oil company PDVSA at the end of January and intended to put pressure on Maduro since his mandate have not yet been taken. In the capital, Caracas, residents of gas stations can continue to refuel, despite fears that sanctions will create shortages.
Opposition leaders have been vague about how they plan to receive help.
Last week, Lester Toledo, Guaidó's representative in the aid mission, suggested that masses of people converging on the border could carry food and medical supplies to the border.
On Monday, Guaidó posted a video on Twitter showing that he and his wife were telephoning to urge people to join a volunteer force by registering on a website and asking them to return to the streets as a sign of protest.
"We are working hard," he said at a call. "Not only to bring help, but also to end the tyranny" of Maduro.
Gaby Arellano, an opposition leader who is one of the leaders of the aid mission, said the strategy was to conduct a "challenge" policy, which was to establish an agenda that forces the hand of Maduro, although she did not provide any details.
"We are politically defining the steps and they react to what we have proposed," said Arellano. "We want and work to make it as peaceful, less traumatic and as fast as possible."
Amaliexiz Mendoza, who lives in Cúcuta with her daughter among the large community of Venezuelan exile, announced that she would walk a thousand times to bring humanitarian aid to her compatriots. Her grandmother, an aunt and young cousins still live in Venezuela and are often hungry, and her grandmother can not get the blood pressure medications she needs.
"It's not good for a child to go to bed hungry," said Mendoza, torn apart as she spoke of Maduro's denial that a crisis existed. "It lacks nothing except our families."
This story was reported by the Associated Press. Fabiola Sanchez and Jorge Rueda in Caracas contributed to this report.