- Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó called for another round of mass protests on Wednesday as he continues his attempt to oust President Nicolás Maduro.
- On Tuesday, Guaidó and his supporters took to the streets of the capital, Caracas, and claimed that he now has the backing of the Venezuelan military.
- But after a day of violent clashes, only a small group of rebellious soldiers appeared to have joined anti-government protests.
- Maduro said his troops successfully defeated the “coup-mongering right.”
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Venezuela’s opposition leader Juan Guaidó called for a second day of mass protests on Wednesday to continue “Operation Freedom” – an attempt to overthrow the country’s socialist government.
He said the uprising was a “peaceful rebellion” and that President Nicolás Maduro “doesn’t have the support from the armed forces.”
On Tuesday, thousands of Guaidó’s supporters flocked to a military airbase in Caracas to help the opposition and a small group of rebellious soldiers oust Maduro.
But after a day of violent clashes, it seemed Guaidó was not able to garner support from high-ranking military officials to divide Maduro’s powerhouse army.
“We need to keep up the pressure,” Guaidó said in a video message. “We will be in the streets.”
The president, on the other hand, said that his troops had already successfully defeated “the coup-mongering right.”In an hour-long TV address on Tuesday evening he accused the opposition of fuelling violence “so the empire could get its claws into Venezuela.” Maduro’s use of the phrase “the empire” is a reference to the US.
Maduro also ridiculed a claim by Mike Pompeo, the US Secretary of State, that he had been planning on fleeing Venezuela for Cuba before being dissuaded by “Russians.”
Pompeo told CNN that the socialist leader had a plane waiting “on the tarmac” Tuesday morning, but was talked out of the escape.
The US, one of many nations to recognise Guaidó as the rightful president of Venezuela, was quick to back the opposition in “Operation Freedom.” Several top politicians pledged their support on social media.
President Donald Trump tweeted that he was monitoring the situation. “The United States stands with the People of Venezuela and their Freedom!” he said.
John Bolton, the National Security Adviser, called out three of Maduro’s senior aides by name, reminding them that they had committed to supporting Guaidó.
But one of the named officers, Defence Minister Vladimir Padrino, fervently backed Maduro throughout the unrest, saying: “Loyal forever, never traitors!”
Protests on Tuesday erupted into violence. Opposition-backing soldiers exchanged live fire with Maduro’s military, Reuters reported. Shocking video also showed military vehicles ramming into anti-government protesters.
A medical center near the main protest site in Caracas said it was treating more than 50 people for injuries, many from rubber bullets, The Associated Press reported. The NGO Provea said a man was killed during an opposition rally in the city of La Victoria, about 40 miles outside the capital.
Brazilian newspaper Folha de S. Paulo reported that 25 soldiers sought asylum in the Brazilian embassy in Venezuela.
Leopoldo López, a high profile opposition leader and mentor to Guaidó, also sought refuge at the Spanish embassy, according to AP. López was previously under house arrest, but said that military members backing the opposition had freed him on Tuesday morning.
The government is planning its own rally on Wednesday, Maduro said in his address. “Those who try to take [the presidential palace] Miraflores with violence will be met with violence.”
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