Venezuela: Maduro Loyalists Attack Protesters Following President’s Call to the Streets

MATIAS DELACROIX/AFP/Getty Images
MATIAS DELACROIX/AFP/Getty Images

Violence broke out on the streets of Venezuela Tuesday, hours after opposition leader Juan Guaidó has declared that they are in the “final phase” of removing Nicolás Maduro’s socialist dictatorship from power.

On Tuesday morning, Guaidó published images on Twitter alongside Leopoldo López, the head of his socialist Popular Will party, alongside armed military personnel at the La Carlota Airbase in Caracas. In a video uploaded soon after, Guaidó said the soldiers had agreed to recognize him as the country’s legitimate commander-in-chief and called on people to flood the streets in support of his opposition movement.

“People of Venezuela, let’s take to the streets to support the end of the usurpation, which is irreversible,” he said. “The National Armed Forces have made the correct decision, they have the support of the people of Venezuela, and the backing of our constitution, they are guaranteed to be on the right side of history.”

“I want to tell the Venezuelan people: This is the moment to take to the streets and accompany these patriotic soldiers,” added López, who has been detained since 2014 for organizing large-scale demonstrations against the regime. “Everyone should come to the streets, in peace.”

Footage from around the country has already shown the reaction of the country’s military and National Guard, many of whom have remained loyal to the regime and are attempting to quash the rebellion. In one video, demonstrators can be seen storming the entrance to the La Carlota airbase and soldiers opening the gates to allow them in.

Venezuelan Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino maintained the country’s military barracks were functioning normally.

“We reject this coup movement that aims to fill the country with violence, and the political pseudo-leaders who have placed themselves at the forefront of this subversive movement and have used troops and police as weapons of war on a public road in the city aimed at creating anxiety and terror,” he declared.

The U.S. has responded to the efforts by offering their full support to the opposition, having been the first country to formally recognize Guaidó as Venezuela’s legitimate president.

“To [Juan Guaidó the National Assembly and all the freedom-loving people of Venezuela who are taking to the streets today in [operation freedom] — Estamos con ustedes! We are with you!” Vice President Mike Pence wrote on Twitter. “America will stand with you until freedom & democracy are restored.”

The regime’s Information Minister Jorge Rodriguez contested claims that his forces are in the process of “deactivating” a small group of “military traitors.”

“We inform the Venezuelan people that we are currently confronting and deactivating a small group of military traitors who were positioned in the Altamira distributor to promote a coup against the constitution and Peace of the Republic,” he wrote on Twitter. “This is another far-right coup, they have violent agenda for months. We call on the people to stay on high alert, along with the glorious Bolivarian National armed forces, to defeat the coup attempt and preserve peace.”

Pressure on the armed forces to drop their support for the regime has ratcheted up over the past year, as the country’s economic crisis has slid into one of the world’s most pressing humanitarian disasters. Millions of people in the country are without access to basic nutrition, medical care, hygiene products, or electricity. Under current projections, an estimated 8.2 million people will flee Venezuela within the next four years, joining the over two million who have already left.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), who has been Washington’s strongest advocate of regime change in Venezuela, tweeted out footage of National Guard members switching sides to support the opposition.

In the city of Maracaibo, protesters parked their cars outside the local military barracks, waving Venezuelan flags and calling for an end to the regime.

Violent confrontations between members of the military were filmed in the Altamira and the Francisco Fajardo highway, as people flooded the streets in support of the opposition.

 

Other footage appears to show people fleeing as the military opens fire on protesters.

In a tweet on Tuesday afternoon, Maduro said that he had spoken with military leaders who had shown “nerves of steel” and expressed their “total loyalty to the People, to the Constitution and to the Fatherland.”

As noted by Bloomberg, the current situation is “highly fluid and the outcome is unclear.”

Follow Ben Kew on Facebook, Twitter at @ben_kew, or email him at bkew@breitbart.com.

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