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Venezuela Crisis Live Updates: Guaidó Calls for Uprising as Clashes Erupt

• Clashes between antigovernment protesters and law enforcement officers erupted in Caracas on Tuesday after the Venezuelan opposition leader, Juan Guaidó, appeared alongside soldiers at a military base and called for the population to rise up against the president, Nicolás Maduro.

• Mr. Guaidó has urged the Venezuela military to join his side since he declared himself interim president more than three months ago. But it was a new step for him to make the declaration with men in uniform by his side. Still, it is unclear how much of the military supports him.

• The Trump administration has backed Mr. Guaidó since he first declared himself interim president in January, and on Tuesday John R. Bolton, the national security adviser, told reporters that central figures in Mr. Maduro’s regime had committed to help transfer power to Mr. Guaidó. Those figures have publicly stated their support for Mr. Maduro.

• Video and photos showed at least one instance where an armored vehicle rammed protesters, but it was not immediately clear how many people were injured in the incident. A health clinic in Caracas reported treating 57 people hurt by rubber bullets and tear gas and one by live ammunition.

Mr. Guaidó, whose effort to topple Mr. Maduro has made little headway since he declared himself interim president in January, took a new step by making his case publicly at a military base in the heart of the capital.

“Today, brave soldiers, brave patriots, brave men attached to the Constitution have followed our call,” Mr. Guaidó said in a video posted on social media, speaking from Generalissimo Francisco de Miranda Air Base, a military airport in Caracas known as La Carlota.

Mr. Guaidó claimed that “the definitive end of the usurpation starts today,” but it was not clear how many civilians or soldiers would heed him.

Behind Mr. Guaidó stood Leopoldo López, a member of his party who was under house arrest after staging protests in 2014. Mr. López said on Twitter that he had been released by soldiers.

“I was released by the military on the order of the Constitution and President Guaidó,” he wrote in his first Twitter posts since 2017. “Everyone mobilize. It’s time to conquer for freedom.”

The release of Mr. Lopez was welcomed by the antigovernment protesters, who took it as a sign of a break within the ranks of the officers guarding him.

But by the midafternoon, Mr. Lopez, his wife, Lilian Tintori, and their daughter entered the Chilean Embassy in Caracas as “guests,” according to a message posted on Twitter by Chile’s Foreign Ministry.

President Maduro insisted in a Twitter post that the military was on his side, saying commanders had assured him of “their total loyalty to the people, to the Constitution and to the fatherland.”

Jorge Rodríguez, the government’s information minister, said on Twitter that government was “confronting and deactivating a small group of military traitors” that he said had taken over the base “to promote a coup.” He blamed the “coup-mongering ultraright,” which he said had pushed for a violent agenda for months in Venezuela.

Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza blamed the Trump administration for having engineered the protests, saying on Twitter: “The heads of the coup d’état admit their responsibility without scruples. The Trump administration, in its despair, attempts to spark an internal conflict in Venezuela. Venezuela’s democratic institutions guarantee peace in the country.”

National guard soldiers and policemen confronted antigovernment protesters who assembled for a protest in response to Mr. Guaidó’s call.

Tear gas canisters could be seen detonating near the military base, where about 2,000 people had gathered by around noon. About 200 people gathered near the president’s Miraflores Palace in Caracas, in support of Mr. Maduro’s government.

In a video broadcast online, an armored vehicle can be seen accelerating directly into a group of protesters, leaving at least one person lying on the road behind it. In a separate series of photos, an armored vehicle appeared to run over a protester.

It was not immediately clear where the incidents took place in Caracas, or whether the people involved were seriously hurt. In addition to the injuries reported by the health clinic in Caracas, Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino wrote on Twitter that a colonel was wounded by a shot to the neck.

A crowd of protesters approached the air base, waving Venezuelan flags.

“I believe this is very important, but I see apathy and fear in people,” said one of the protesters, Mary Galaviz, 69. “We should not be afraid. In war there is death, but goals are achieved.”

Miriam Segovia, 52, another protester near the base, said she hoped that the armed forces would “put themselves on the side of the Constitution, so we can escape this misery, this hunger and lack of medication.”

Venezuelans elsewhere expressed a mix of hope, fear and apathy. Some tried to go on with their lives, heading to work or to school amid the chaos.

Grisel Sojo, 24, a resident of Petare, was one of about 50 people waiting for a bus so she could head home, after giving up on going to work for the day.

“If they don’t have the support of the high military command, they won’t achieve anything,” she said of the opposition. “I wouldn’t go out in the street or call others to head out, because it is very sad to see people dying in the streets.”

Mr. Guaidó spoke to gathered supporters from a public square in Altamira, a neighborhood that has long been an opposition stronghold, saying, “Maduro no longer has the support of the armed forces.”

But by midday in Caracas, it was still unclear how many members of the armed forces had switched their allegiance to Mr. Guaidó.

No major figure from the military had come out to support him — and many of the top brass said there were against his latest move.

“They are cowards!!” wrote Vladimir Padrino López, the general who serves as defense minister, on Twitter, of the opposition. “We will stand firm in the defense of the constitutional order.”

“We will keep the peace,” was the message on the Twitter account of the military unit that controls Caracas. “Always loyal, traitors never!”

While Mr. Guaidó said that he had the support of many top commanders in the armed forces — even promising a list of their names — no wave of top officials had yet voiced their support publicly. He also appeared to lack the support of other bases in Caracas or other parts of the country, which remained quiet.

But photos and video from the streets of Caracas showed a few heavily armed men in uniform wearing the blue bands that represent their allegiance to Mr. Guaidó. Some of the armed men were pointing weapons from an overpass, with boxes of ammunition nearby. Others were seen amid the anti-government protesters.

“I think enough time has passed that all the relevant actors have looked around and see that the power dynamic remains largely unchanged, that Maduro does not have democratic legitimacy but he still has de facto power,” said Geoff Ramsey, a Venezuela analyst at the Washington Office on Latin America.

“I think ultimately what we’re going to see coming out of this is both the government and the opposition recognizing that their hands were not as strong as they were,” he said.

Battered by mismanagement, American sanctions and corruption, the Venezuelan economy has been in steep decline since 2014. Millions of people have emigrated, and the roughly 30 million who remain are plagued by hyperinflation and shortages of medicines, food, electricity and jobs.

[Read a guide to how Venezuela’s crisis began, and who is vying for power.]

Mr. Maduro, who has been in office since 2013, won re-election last year in a contest that was widely seen as fraudulent. In January, the National Assembly, controlled by the opposition and led by Mr. Guaidó, declared the election and the government illegitimate, leading Mr. Guaidó to claim to be the rightful, transitional leader.

More than 50 countries, including the United States and most of its close allies, recognized him as Venezuela’s legitimate leader.

The Trump administration expressed immediate support for Mr. Guaidó’s latest move.

President Trump tweeted, “The United States stands with the People of Venezuela and their Freedom!” and Vice President Mike Pence tweeted, “Estamos con ustedes! We are with you! America will stand with you until freedom & democracy are restored. Vayan con dios!”

Similarly, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tweeted that the United States “fully supports” the protests.

In a briefing, John R. Bolton, the national security adviser, said important officials in the Maduro administration have been in communication with the opposition and had committed to achieving the transfer of power from Mr. Maduro to Mr. Guaidó.

Mr. Bolton named the officials as Vladimir Padrino, the defense minister; Maikel Moreno, the chief judge in the Venezuelan Supreme Court; and Rafael Hernandez Dala, the commander of the presidential guard.

He called on them to “act this afternoon or this evening to bring other military forces to the side of the interim president.”

But Mr. Padrino and Mr. Moreno both came out publicly in defense of Mr. Maduro on Tuesday.

Mr. Guaidó’s moves on Tuesday reverberated throughout the region, where Latin American leaders came out for and against his push, divided on whether what was happening amounted to a coup attempt.

President Iván Duque of Colombia called on Venezuela’s military to “place yourself on the right side of history, rejecting the dictatorship and usurpation of Maduro,” and President Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil tweeted his support of the protesters, Mr. Guaidó and “the democratic transition.” President Marito Abdo of Paraguay tweeted, “Brave people of Venezuela! Your hour has arrived!”

Cuba, a longtime ally of Venezuela which supports it militarily, warned ominously of the events in Caracas on Tuesday.

“We reject this coup movement that aims to fill the country with violence,” wrote Miguel Díaz-Canel, the Cuban president, on Twitter. “The traitors who have placed themselves at the forefront of this subversive movement have used troops and police with weapons of war on a public road in the city to create anxiety and terror.”

Mr. Maduro also received support from President Evo Morales of Bolivia, who went to Twitter to call the effort a “attempted coup d’état” with the aim of advancing foreign interests.

And the Foreign Ministry of Russia, a longstanding ally of Mr. Maduro, denounced the actions of the demonstrators, saying in a statement that Venezuela’s “radical opposition” had “once again turned to forceful methods of confrontation.”

The ministry called for the protesters “to reject violence,” saying it supported the resolution of Venezuela’s “internal disagreements by the same citizens of Venezuela.”

Source: NYT > World

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