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Venezuela: Maduro claims victory over ‘attempted coup’, as Guaido calls for people to take to streets again

General May 2, 2019

Venezuela: Maduro claims victory over ‘attempted coup’, as Guaido calls for people to take to streets againVenezuela’s Nicolas Maduro has claimed victory over what he described as the “coup-mongering far right”, following a bold challenge by opposition leader Juan Guiado who took to the streets of Caracas with rebels on Tuesday.In an hour-long address on Tuesday night following a day punctured by violent exchanges, Mr Maduro said the opposition had failed to win the support of the military and that Mr Guaido’s attempts at an armed confrontation could be used as a pretext for foreign interference – specifically by Donald Trump’s “imperialist gang”.But Mr Guaidó said Mr Maduro had lost control of the armed forces, and said a peaceful transition of power in Venezuela was underway, as he called for further action on Wednesday.The rebellion was launched by Mr Guiado early on Tuesday morning when he released a video calling for action in a move he called “Operation Freedom”, in which he was flanked by a few dozen national guardsmen and some armoured crowd-control vehicles, near the Carlota air base in the capital.Mr Trump was quick to announce his support for the rebellion.However, a larger split in the military which has remained largely loyal to Mr Maduro failed to emerge. The confrontation between the two opposition leaders erupted on an overpass, with troops loyal to Mr Maduro firing tear gas from inside the adjacent air base.A crowd which quickly swelled to several thousand ran for cover, reappearing later with Mr Guaido at a plaza a few streets away from the disturbances.A smaller group of masked youths stayed behind, lobbing rocks and Molotov cocktails towards the air base and setting a government bus on fire.Amid the mayhem, several armoured utility vehicles crashed over pavements and drove at full speed into the crowd.Two demonstrators, lying on the ground with their heads and legs bloodied, were rushed away on a motorcycle as the vehicles sped away dodging fireballs thrown by the demonstrators.Health officials said about 70 people had been injured in the violence, with two people sustaining bullet wounds.As the clashes unfolded, Mr Guaido wrote on Twitter: “We are in a process that is unstoppable. We have the firm backing of our people and the world to achieve the restoration of our democracy.”In one blow to Mr Maduro, the head of Venezuela’s feared intelligence agency announced he was breaking ranks with the embattled socialist leader. In the morning address Mr Guaido had also unexpectedly been joined by Leopoldo Lopez, one of Venezuela’s most-prominent anti-government activists. He was detained in 2014 for leading previous protests. Mr Lopez said he had been released from house arrest by security forces following an order from Mr Guaido. “I want to tell the Venezuelan people: This is the moment to take to the streets and accompany these patriotic soldiers,” Mr Lopez declared. With Mr Guiado calling for a new round of mass street protests on Wednesday, his opposition forces are hoping Venezuelans angered by broadcast images of armoured vehicles ploughing into anti-government protesters and exasperated by the dire humanitarian crisis will fill streets across the country. “We need to keep up the pressure,” Mr Guaido said. “We will be in the streets.”Also on Tuesday, the Trump administration threatened Cuba with a “full and complete embargo” over its support for Mr Maduro. “If Cuban troops and militia do not immediately CEASE military and other operations for the purpose of causing death and destruction to the constitution of Venezuela, a full and complete embargo, together with highest-level sanctions, will be placed on the island of Cuba,” Mr Trump tweeted. “Hopefully, all Cuban soldiers will promptly and peacefully return to their island.”Additional reporting by AP and PA

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