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The Americas | Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó appears to stage military-backed challenge to President Maduro
By Mariana Zuñiga
opposition leader Juan Guaido speaks with a military member near the
Generalisimo Francisco de Miranda Airbase, "La Carlota," in Caracas,
Venezuela, April 30, 2019. (REUTERS/Manaure Quintero )
Correspondent covering Latin America, Venezuela, Argentina, Brazil, human rights, poverty, globalization and economics
April 30 at 7:15 AM
CARACAS, Venezuela —
Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó appeared early Tuesday to be
staging a military-backed challenge to President Nicolás Maduro, issuing
a video with troops that he said was recorded at a base in Caracas and
urging other soldiers to join the final stage of “Operation Liberty”
meant to force the socialist leader from power.
of Venezuela, the end of usurpation has arrived,” Guaidó said. “At this
moment, I am with the main military units of our armed forces, starting
the final phase of Operation Liberty. People of Venezuela, we will go
to the street with the armed forces to continue taking the streets until
we consolidate the end of usurpation, which is already irreversible.”
communication’s minister tweeted that the government was moving to
confront a “coup” and was attempting to “deactivate” what he described
as a “reduced group of military officials who are traitors” and who have
positioned themselves in the Altamira district of the capital.
defense minister, Vladimir Padrino Lopez, insisted in a separate tweet
that the majority of the military remains loyal to the government.
Bolivarian Armed Forces stand firm in defense of the national
constitution and its legitimate authorities,” he tweeted. He added: “We
reject this coup-like movement that seeks to fill the country with
violence. The pseudo political leaders that are heading the subversive
movement have employed troops and police with war weapons in a street of
the city to create terror.”
Guaidó called for
“nonviolent” action, but the video had the hallmarks of perhaps the most
significant military challenge to Maduro’s power since Guaidó — the
head of the opposition-controlled National Assembly — invoked
constitutional powers, called Maduro a usurper and claimed the true
mantle of leadership as Venezuela’s interim president. His claim has
since been recognized by nearly 60 nations, including the United States,
which is vigorously backing him and has called on Venezuela’s military
to reject Maduro.
On Tuesday — a day before a
planned opposition protest — Guaidó stood in front of Leopoldo López,
his political mentor and a longtime opposition figure who has been
ordered to remain under house arrest. His presence signified a defiant
breaking of that order.
“Venezuela: the final
phase for the end of usurpation has arrived, Operation Freedom,” Lopez
tweeted. “I have been freed by military men of the constitution, and of
President Guaidó. I’m at the La Carlota Base. We have to mobilize. It’s
time to conquer freedom. Strength and Faith.”
known as Generalísimo Francisco de Miranda Air Base, the La Carlota
base was built in 1946 in the eastern part of Caracas. Its airport has
been closed to the public since 2005.
early-morning events set the stage for a potentially dramatic
confrontation between Maduro’s government and Guaidó’s backers.
assassin ultra-right joined this attempt, announcing its violent agenda
months ago,” Jorge Rodriguez, Maduro’s communication minister, tweeted.
“We call the people to stay in maximum alert with the glorious
Bolivarian armed forces to overcome this coup attempt and preserve the
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), who has
strongly backed Guaidó, issued a call for the military to rise up: “This
is the moment for those military officers in #Venezuela to fulfill
their constitutional oath & defend the legitimate interim President
@jguaido, in this effort to restore democracy,” he tweeted. “You can
write history in the hours & days ahead.”