Violent clashes in Venezuela after opposition leader Juan Guaido calls for military uprising

Violent clashes in Venezuela after opposition leader Juan Guaido calls for military uprisingViolent clashes broke out in Venezuela’s capital on Tuesday as opposition leader Juan Guaido took to the streets alongside armed soldiers and supporters after calling for a military uprising. A few thousand protesters were pelted with tear gas in Caracas and at one point an armoured vehicle rammed into the crowds, appearing to leave some people injured.  Earlier in the day Mr Guaido, who has declared himself interim president, released a video of himself alongside around a dozen soldiers who he claimed had defected.  He praised the “braze soldiers” and urged more to do likewise, saying the “final push” toward removing embattled socialist president Nicolas Maduro was underway.  Leopoldo Lopez, a fellow opposition politician, also appeared in the video despite being under house arrest since 2017. He claimed forces loyal to Mr Guaido had released him. En el marco de nuestra constitución. Y por el cese definitivo de la usurpación.— Juan Guaidó (@jguaido) April 30, 2019   Mr Maduro’s government labelled the move an attempted “coup”, a description echoed by supportive politicians abroad, and vowed to crack down on the “military traitors”. Mr Maduro later said military leaders had assured him they remained loyal. There were few public signs that Mr Guaido’s call had triggered a broader revolt among commanders.  Senior US administration figures gave their vocal backing, with president Donald Trump, vice president Mike Pence, secretary of state Mike Pompeo and national security adviser John Bolton all issuing supportive statements. But Antonio Guterres, the United Nations secretary general, urged “maximum restraint” on all sides, while the body’s spokesman said the dispute must be resolved “peacefully”.  Sir Alan Duncan, the UK government minister for the Americas, said he was watching events “very closely”, adding that Mr Guaido had shown “courage, creativity and resolution”.  Mr Guaido and his supporters gathered near the Generalissimo Francisco de Miranda Air Base, the military airport in Caracas where his video appeared to have been shot.  Around 70 soldiers wearing blue armbands in support for Mr Guaido reportedly squared off against security forces loyal to the regime. One pro-Guaido solider was injured in the clashes.  As more supporters joined, the scenes turned increasingly ugly. Footage showed water cannons being used on the crowds and, at one moment, a military vehicle smashing into protesters.  The call for a military uprising was the boldest attempt yet by Mr Guaido, who cited constitutional powers back in January to declare himself interim president, to force Mr Maduro from power.   Opposition demonstrators clashes with soldiers loyal to Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro after troops joined opposition leader Juan Guaido Credit: Matias DELACROIX / AFP His claim has been supported by America and more than 50 other countries, some of whom have implemented sanctions. But others, including Russia, are backing Mr Maduro. In the video, Mr Guaido, 35, spoke directly to camera as more than a dozen soldiers dressed in military uniform, some holding guns, stood to attention behind him. “Today, brave soldiers, brave patriots, brave men loyal to the Constitution have followed our call,” said Mr Guaido, who is also president of the country’s National Assembly.  He called on people to take to the streets all over Venezuela and claimed that “the definitive end of the usurpation starts today”. He added: “Today as the caretaker president of Venezuela, as the legitimate commander-in-chief of the armed forces, I call on all soldiers, the military family, to accompany us in this mission.”    Support for Venezuela leadership Mr Lopez, seen as Mr Guaido’s political mentor, stood behind him and watched on. He later said he had been released from house arrest by security forces adhering to 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 said.  Soon after the video, which appeared to have been filmed in the early morning, was posted online the move was condemned by Mr Maduro’s ministers.  Vladimir Padrino, the Venezuelan defence minister, said: "We reject this coup movement, which aims to fill the country with violence.” He insisted the country’s forces remained loyal to Mr Maduro.  Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido posted a video of himself near the Generalisimo Francisco de Miranda Airbase in Caracas Credit: REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins Jorge Rodriguez, the country’s information minister, wrote on Twitter that the “military traitors" who were seeking to promote a “coup” were being confronted.  A Kremlin spokesman and the Bolivan president Evo Morales, key allies of Mr Maduro, called the uprising a “coup” attempt. Cuba’s foreign minister also denounced the move.  But Donald Trump’s administration issued statements of support. Mr Trump himself tweeted that "the United States stands with the People of Venezuela and their Freedom!" and that he was monitoring the situation "very closely". Mr Pence tweeted to Mr Guaido and his supporters: “We are with you! America will stand with you until freedom and democracy are restored.”  Sprain, instrumental in shaping the European Union’s stance on Venezuela, was more cautious, with a government spokesman calling for a “peaceful democratic process” rather than “bloodshed”.  It was unclear whether Mr Guaido’s message had resonated with the military leaders whose support is critical in keeping Mr Maduro in power despite a crumbling economy and electricity blackouts.  A soldier in the group with Mr Guaido denied government claims they had been tricked into acting, telling Reuters: “We're all afraid, but we had to do it.” Another protest called for by Mr Guaido and his supporters is due to take place on Wednesday.

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April 30, 2019 10:31 pm

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