Caracas, Venezuela – Venezuelan opposition leader and selfproclaimed acting president Juan Guaido said on Tuesday that troops had joined his campaign to oust President Nicolas Maduro as the government vowed to put down what it called an attempted coup.
Hundreds of people, many waving Venezuelan flags, flocked onto a highway near a Caracas military base, and police responded with tear-gas as some of the demonstrators broke away to throw rocks at security forces.
The government said it was ‘deactivating’ an attempted coup by a small group of ‘treacherous’ soldiers.
‘We are currently facing and deactivating a small group of treacherous military personnel who took positions in the Altamira distributor road (in Caracas) to promote a coup d’etat’, Communications Minister Jorge Rodriguez said on Twitter. ‘We call on the people to remain on maximum alert to – with our glorious National Bolivarian Armed Forces – defeat the attempted coup and preserve peace’. Members of the Bolivarian National Guard loyal to Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro run under a cloud of tear gas, in front of La Carlota military base in Caracas on Tuesday
The US, meanwhile, threw its full support behind Guaido, with the White House calling on the military to protect the people and support the country’s ‘legitimate institutions’, including the opposition-controlled National As
sembly. ‘ The US Government fully supports the Venezuelan people in their quest for freedom and democracy. Democracy cannot be defeated’, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Twitter.
In a video recorded at Caracas’ La Carlota military air base, the US-backed Guaido said troops had heeded months of urging to join his campaign to oust Maduro. ‘Today brave soldiers, brave patriots, brave men
supporting the constitution have answered our call’, he said.
Television images showed soldiers and Guaido supporters on a road outside the base milling around without urgency.
Hundreds of people gradually
joined the group on a highway overpass near the base, many waving Venezuelan flags.
President Ivan Duque of neighbouring Colombia – home to more than a million refugees from Maduro’s regime – called on Twitter for ‘soldiers and the people of Venezuela to place themselves on the right side of history, rejecting dictatorship and Maduro’s usurpation’.
Colombia also said it was calling an emergency meeting of the Lima Group – a grouping of major Latin American nations plus Canada focused on Venezuela.
Internet observatory NetBlocks reported in a Twitter message that ‘multiple Internet services’ were restricted in Venezuela. Tuesday’s call comes ahead of plans to hold a massive Mayday protest in Caracas that Guaido has termed ‘the biggest march in Venezuela’s history’.
The US and Latin American powers including Brazil, Peru and Chile swiftly backed Guaido, followed later by EU nations.
Spanish government spokeswoman Isabel Celaa said Madrid backed a ‘peaceful’ outcome in Venezuela, and wanted to see ‘democratic elections’ take place there. Britain, among the powers that recognise Guaido as interim president, called for a ‘peaceful resolution’ to the crisis.