By Maja Zivanovic
Former Otpor leader in Serbia Srdja Popovic has dismissed the Venezuelan ambassador to Russia’s claim that the self-declared president of Venezuela, Juan Guaido, was trained by his group in Serbia in resistance tactics.
After the Venezuelan ambassador to Russia, Carlos Rafael Faria Tortosa, called self-declared president Juan Guaido a “US puppet” who was trained in the arts of rebellion in Serbia, a leading Serbian activist has dismissed the allegation.
Srdja Popovic, from the Canvas think thank, told BIRN the claim was nonsense. “He was not with me in Belgrade for training,” Popovic told BIRN.
Popovic was a founder of the Otpor non-violent civil resistance movement that helped topple the former Serbian regime of Slobodan Milosevic.
He is one of the founders of a Belgrade-based think tank, the Centre for Applied Nonviolent Action and Strategies, which has mentored many other civil resistance movements around the world on how to fight peacefully for democracy, change and human rights.
Popovic and his team have received many prizes for their work.
Opposition politician Guaido has been recently recognized by the US and most Western countries as Venezuela’s rightful president.
But power in Caracas still lies with the incumbent president and strongman Nicolas Maduro, who retains the strong support of Russia, China, Cuba and some other countries.
This week, ambassador Tortosa claimed Guaido “was recruited by the US a decade ago and is little more than Washington’s puppet”.
He said: “Guaido was recruited, according to our information, some 10 years ago. He was sent to Serbia to study [rebellions]. You probably know about it,” he told Russian lawmakers, Russia’s Sputnik news agency reported.
Such claims connect Guaido with a group of students from Venezuela who allegedly came in Belgrade in 2005 to learn how to start revolutions and were mentored by Popovic’s activists.
Popovic said he wished the Venezuelan revolt every success, and considered Guaido a friend.
“It is no secret that many representatives of the Venezuelan democratic movement are my friends, that we have known each other for years and have talked countless times about the political situation in this beautiful but unhappy country,” Popovic told BIRN in written response.
He added that he had talked and wrote about this matter many times, so “this is no secret”.
“Of course, I would do everything in my power to help him [Guaido] to fight against the regime that even the army can no longer defend against its own citizens, because they live on the verge of existence in the country with enormous natural resources,” Popovic continued.
He also wished “my friend Juan Guaido” success in his fight, calling him “a high-quality, young and educated man recognized even by the [country’s] first neighbours, such as Brazil, Colombia and Argentina, and the entire democratic world as a true and legitimate representative of Venezuela”.