Venezuela’s political crisis has lurched into a potentially historic and violent new phase as an attempted military uprising erupted at the heart of its capital, Caracas, and the opposition leader Juan Guaidó urged supporters to take to the streets to force his rival Nicolás Maduro from power.
A day of high drama and profound uncertainty began shortly before dawn on Tuesday when Guaidó – who has been spearheading a three-month campaign to topple Maduro – posted an online video in which he appeared surrounded by dozens of armed troops near a key military installation in Caracas.
“The time is now,” Guaidó said outside the La Carlota airbase. “We are going to achieve freedom and democracy in Venezuela,” he added, urging supporters to take to the streets.
It was unclear how many soldiers had joined Guaidó’s cause, but hundreds of civilian supporters gathered at the airbase, where troops loyal to Maduro fired teargas rounds, prompting a brief exchange of gunfire.
Later, television images showed clashes between government troops and protesters as a national guard armoured car drove into a crowd, leaving several people apparently injured. Other footage showed national guardsmen chasing away demonstrators on a nearby highway.
Maduro made no public appearance but said that he had spoken with military commanders who had shown him “total loyalty”. He tweeted: “Nerves of steel! I call for maximum popular mobilization to assure the victory of peace. We will win!”
Senior officials took to the airwaves to insist the uprising would fail.
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