Venezuelan opposition leading new uprising against Maduro, winning US support


Posted on: April 30th, 2019 by ABC News No Comments

adam smigielski/iStock(CARACAS, Venezuela) — Venezuela’s opposition leaders on Tuesday announced a new effort with some military backing to oust Nicolas Maduro, the socialist president of the country who has been battling a swell of protests that he has blasted as a coup.

Juan Guaido, the president of the country’s National Assembly who was sworn in as interim president in January, was joined by Leopoldo Lopez, a leading opposition figure who had been under house arrest, but was freed Tuesday by deserted Venezuelan military officers. Near a major military base in the capital Caracas, Guaido announced the “final phase” of their effort to remove Maduro from power.

He said the uprising now had the support of at least some military officials, but it’s unclear how many. Government forces fired tear gas and clashed with some of his supporters in the streets of Caracas, with reports of gunfire.

Maduro’s government says that it “de-activated” a “small” group of military officials attempting a coup, with Maduro tweeting that he had spoken to several military commanders who expressed their “total loyalty.”

The opposition’s effort was quickly boosted by U.S. leaders, who again voiced support for their push for democracy. The U.S. and more than 50 other countries have recognized Guaido as Venezuela’s legitimate leader and called for Maduro to exit, exerting increasing economic pressure on his government to force him to do that.
 
“To [Guaido], the National Assembly and all the freedom-loving people of Venezuela who are taking to the streets today … We are with you!” tweeted Vice President Mike Pence. “America will stand with you until freedom & democracy are restored.”

The U.S. “fully supports the Venezuelan people in their quest for freedom and democracy,” added Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, although he stopped short of outright endorsing the actions taken Tuesday.

The White House said President Donald Trump had been briefed and was monitoring the situation. For now, it seems, the U.S. is waiting to see what happens before fully embracing the latest effort.

Maduro has faced protests for months over his economic mismanagement, consolidation of power and crackdown on political opposition. The opposition-controlled National Assembly voted to declare Guaido interim president in January, winning the backing of the U.S., several neighbors like Colombia and Brazil, and many European countries. But Maduro, backed by allies like Russia and Cuba, has maintained his control on power, in large part by sustaining the support of the military chiefs.

U.S. officials have said they’ve been in talks with some high-ranking military officials to peel away their support, but it was not apparent Tuesday if there had been any major new defections.

It’s also unclear if the U.S. had advanced warning of Guaido and Lopez’s plan. The State Department did not respond to request for comment.

But Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said that National Security Adviser John Bolton called him Tuesday morning to brief him on what was happening, and as soon as the events began to unfold, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., weighed in on Twitter: “Liberty & freedom is never easy. But it is always worth it. #Venezuela.” Rubio has been a vocal supporter of Guaido and a key adviser to the Trump administration on Latin America policy.

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