Venezuela’s defence minister rejects ‘coup attempt’ by Guaido

Juan Guaido says he has military support, the defence minister says the armed forces back President Maduro.

Tear gas was fired on a highway near the airbase where Guaido appeared with the military men [Carlos Garcia Rawlins/Reuters]

Diosdado Cabello, the head of Venezuela‘s pro-government constituent assembly, has called on supporters of President Nicolas Maduro to rally at the presidential palace after opposition leader Juan Guaido said troops had joined him to overthrow Maduro.

Guaido, speaking earlier on Tuesday near the La Carlota air force base in Caracas, said the “final phase” to end Maduro’s presidency had begun.

Guaido, in a video posted on his Twitter account, was speaking in the company of men in military uniform and opposition politician Leopoldo Lopez, who had been under house arrest after he was found guilty of inciting violence during anti-government protests in 2014.

“The national armed forces have taken the correct decision, and they are counting on the support of the Venezuelan people,” Guaido said.

He also called on people to go out to the streets and asked them to go to La Carlota.

Minister of Defence Vladimir Padrino said in a Tweet that the armed forces remained “firmly in defence of the constitutional order”.

Venezuela’s information minister, Jorge Rodriguez, on Twitter said the government is “confronting a small group of military traitors” that are seeking to promote a coup.

Tear gas was fired on a highway near the airbase where Guaido appeared with the military men.

Guaido has been travelling outside the capital, Caracas, more and more in recent weeks, trying to put pressure on Maduro to step down.

Protests are planned for Wednesday, May 1, including what Guaido has said will be “the largest march in Venezuela‘s history”, part of what he calls the “definitive phase” of his effort to take office in order to call fresh elections.

Maduro calls Guaido a US-backed puppet who seeks to overthrow him in a coup. The government has arrested his top aide, stripped Guaido of his parliamentary immunity and opened multiple probes. It has also barred him from leaving the country, a ban Guaido openly violated earlier this year.

Last week, Guaido said his congressional ally – opposition legislator Gilber Caro – had been arrested, and that 11 members of his team had been summoned to appear before the Sebin intelligence agency.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies