Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido on Tuesday called for the military to oust President Nicolas Maduro. But Maduro said that military leaders had shown him “their total loyalty.”
Guaido spoke at a gathering outside an air base in Caracas. Guaido supporters at the demonstration and soldiers began to fight. Other clashes took place at similar demonstrations across the country.
The early-morning rebellion, however, seems to have only limited military support.
Venezuela’s Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino López appeared on national television surrounded by the country’s generals. He condemned Guaido’s move to seize power as a “terrorist” act and said that it was bound to fail.
Early on Tuesday, Guaido posted a video on Twitter saying that he had begun the “final phase” of his campaign to oust Maduro. He called on Venezuelans and the armed forces to support him ahead of large street protests planned for Wednesday.
Standing with Guaido was Leopoldo Lopez, Venezuela’s leading opposition activist. Lopez has been under house arrest by Maduro but said he was "freed" by soldiers supporting Guaido. Lopez declared, “I want to tell the Venezuelan people: This is the moment to take to the streets and accompany these patriotic soldiers.”
As the two were speaking, troops loyal to Maduro fired tear gas from inside the air base. Several thousand demonstrators fled for cover. A tank then drove into a crowd of demonstrators who were throwing rocks at soldiers.
Guaido had declared himself the country’s interim president in January. The leader of Venezuela's National Assembly said Maduro’s re-election should not be recognized because he had barred his opponents from running against him.
Guaido told German international broadcaster Deutsche Welle in an interview released Tuesday, “Whatever happens now, we won’t let ourselves be stopped. Our process is moving on step by step, in accordance with our constitution. We continue to stand for nonviolence.”
Guaido has said Wednesday’s protests will be “the largest march in Venezuela’s history.”
Venezuela is dealing with an economic crisis along with its political one. Food and medicine shortages are severe. Earlier this year, the United States banned the sale of Venezuela’s oil in U.S. markets, adding more financial pressure on the country.
U.S. backing Guaido
In Washington, D.C., White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said President Donald Trump “has been briefed and is monitoring the ongoing situation.” She would not say whether the administration knew of Guaido’s plan before Tuesday’s events took place.
Other American officials, including Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and national security advisor John Bolton expressed their support for Guaido on Twitter. Pence wrote, “To @jguaido, the National Assembly and all the freedom-loving people of Venezuela who are taking to the streets today in #operacionlibertad—Estamos con ustedes! We are with you! America will stand with you until freedom & democracy are restored."
Russia’s foreign ministry on Tuesday accused the Venezuelan opposition of an attempt to draw the country’s armed forces into clashes. In recent weeks, Russia also sent soldiers and officers to help in Venezuela defense operations.
I'm Caty Weaver.
Hai Do adapted this story for Learning English based on Associated Press and Reuters news reports. Caty Weaver was the editor.
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Words in This Story
accompany - v. to go together
accordance - n. in a way that agrees with or follows
monitor - v. to watch, observe