Thousands march in Venezuela a day after opposition’s Guaido called for uprising as Maduro remained defiant.
Venezuela has plunged into a major political crisis amid a growing row over President Nicolas Maduro’s future as the country’s leader.
Maduro started a second term on January 10, following a widely boycotted election last year that many foreign governments refused to recognise.
On January 23, Juan Guaido, leader of the opposition-controlled National Assembly, declared himself interim president.
Shortly after Guaido took an oath swearing himself in, US President Donald Trump publicly recognised him as the country’s leader.
Maduro accused Guaido of staging a coup and ordered his arrest.
Here are all the latest updates as of Wednesday, May 15:
The US Department of Transportation on Wednesday ordered the suspension of all passenger and cargo flights between the United States and Venezuela, citing reports of unrest and violence around airports in the South American country.
In a letter to the Transportation Department requesting the halt, the Department of Homeland Security said “conditions in Venezuela threaten the safety and security of passengers, aircraft, and crew travelling to or from that country”.
The European Union condemned what it called Venezuela’s “flawed judicial decisions” against four opposition lawmakers on Wednesday, saying it would lead to an escalation of the political crisis in the country.
Accusations of treason against Carlos Paparoni, Miguel Pizarro, Franco Casella and Winston Flores “are part of a pattern of blatant violations of due process and unfair legal proceedings,” the EU’s foreign service said in a statement.
“Such measures only contribute to further polarisation of the situation in the country,” it added.
Politicians entered parliament on Wednesday, a day after opposition leader Juan Guaido accused Venezuela President Nicolas Maduro’s government of trying to “gag” the legislature after it was blocked by security forces.
A smiling Guaido could be seen in midmorning entering the Federal Palace building that houses the National Assembly – the only government branch under opposition control – alongside other politicians on a video shared by his press team.
“Yesterday the dictatorship tried to prevent our session but they couldn’t and they can’t,” Guaido wrote on twitter. “Today we will sit in session honoring once more the support and confidence of the whole of Venezuela.”
Venezuela’s supreme court on Tuesday accused four opposition legislators of treason and conspiracy, according to a statement posted on the court’s Facebook page, following similar accusations earlier against 10 opposition lawmakers.
Opposition legislators on April 30 participated in demonstrations that were part of a failed uprising led by opposition leader Juan Guaido.
Venezuelan security forces prevented opposition politicians from entering the parliament building for a session on Tuesday, a week after the top court stripped several politicians of their immunity amid a political crisis in the South American country.
Members of the Sebin intelligence service, wearing masks and carrying long guns, together with members of the national police and the military blocked the entrance and were investigating the possible presence of an explosive device inside the National Assembly building, politicians said.
Opposition lawmaker Jorge Millan told reporters the report of “bombs” in the building was false.
“It is a trick to prevent the parliament from functioning today,” he said. “If we do not have a session today, we will do it tomorrow.”
Amnesty International said on Tuesday it believes the Venezuelan authorities have committed crimes against humanity in their crackdown on anti-government protests, and urged the International Criminal Court to investigate.
The rights group said President Nicolas Maduro‘s government responded with “a systematic and widespread policy of repression” in late January.
Maduro opponents were tortured and killed during the protests, Amnesty said.
“The nature of the attacks … the level of coordination by the security forces, as well as the signs of similar patterns in 2014 and 2017, leads Amnesty International to believe that the Venezuelan authorities committed crimes against humanity,” Amnesty said in a statement.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that while meeting with Russia’s foreign minister he urged Russia to end its support of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.
Pompeo and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov met for more than three hours in the Russian city of Sochi on Tuesday. The two are to brief Russian President Vladimir Putin on the results of their talks.
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro on Friday called his former intelligence chief Manuel Cristopher a “traitor” and said he had helped plan a military uprising called for by the opposition on April 30, which Maduro described as a “coup”.
In a speech broadcast on state television, Maduro said he had full confidence in Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino and Supreme Court chief Maikel Moreno, who US officials said had been in talks with the opposition about plans to oust Maduro.
An opposition politician charged with treason for supporting last month’s failed uprising in Venezuela announced in a video on Friday that he had fled to neighbouring Colombia.
“I am out of the country, in Colombia, sheltered from a regime that is willing to imprison deputies,” said Luis Florido, one of 10 politicians charged with treason for supporting a failed April 30 uprising against President Nicolas Maduro’s regime.
“Before leaving, I consulted with many friends, all of them told me: ‘Luis, don’t let yourself get caught, don’t give a trophy to the regime that has kept you hungry for so long,” Florido said in the video posted on Twitter.
Venezuela is reopening its borders with Brazil and the Caribbean island of Aruba, Venezuela’s Economy Vice President Tareck El Aissami said on Friday.
“We want to convert it into a peaceful border region,” El Aissami said in a state television address. “We have received assurances that our sovereignty will be respected and that there will not be interference in matters that should be dealt with by Venezuelans.”
El Aissami did not specifically reference the maritime and air borders with the other nearby Dutch Caribbean islands Curacao or Bonaire, or the land border with neighbouring Colombia, which were also closed in February.
In the wake of last week’s failed military uprising, Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido is looking to jumpstart his movement to oust Nicolas Maduro, promising to persevere in the face of a deepening crackdown and taking heart from China’s recent support for an international mediation effort.
In an interview on Friday with The Associated Press, Guaido also repeated his willingness to consider inviting foreign troops to force Maduro from power, echoing the line from Washington that “all options” are on the table for dealing with Venezuela’s rapidly-escalating crisis.
“The best solution is the one generating the fewest social costs,” he said, blaming the socialist leader for blocking all attempts at negotiating a solution. “The biggest obstacle to that is Maduro.”
Venezuela’s opposition leader Juan Guaido accused President Nicolas Maduro’s government on Thursday of “dismantling” parliament after three politicians sought diplomatic refuge while another was arrested for treason.
“If we can talk about a coup d’etat in Venezuela, here it is: the dismantling of the national parliament,” Guaido told a news conference, accusing Maduro’s government of “state terrorism.”
Guido, who considers himself the country’s legitimate acting leader, spoke out after opposition politicians Richard Blanco, Mariela Magallanes and Americo De Grazia sought refuge in the Argentine and Italian embassies in Caracas.
They are among 10 National Assembly members charged with treason for supporting Guaido’s call for a military revolt on April 30.
Venezuelan opposition politician Americo De Grazia entered the Italian embassy in Caracas on Thursday after a pro-government legislative body stripped him of parliamentary immunity, three sources close to the legislator said.
“I thank Italy for the welcome,” De Grazia wrote on Twitter, though he did not say he had taken refuge in the embassy. He did not respond to a phone call seeking comment.
Politician Marianella Magallanes, who also had her immunity taken away this week, sought refuge in the Italian embassy on Wednesday.
A Venezuelan opposition politician sought refuge at Argentina’s Embassy in Caracas on Thursday, according to an Argentine foreign ministry source and a Reuters witness, a day after the arrest of a top figure in the opposition-controlled legislature.
Richard Blanco of the Brave Peoples’ Alliance party had entered the embassy on Thursday morning, said the Argentine official, who asked not to be identified. “He (Blanco) is there as a guest, we can confirm that,” the official said.
On Wednesday, Edgar Zambrano, the opposition-run National Assembly’s vice president, said he had been arrested by intelligence agents.
Venezuelan intelligence agents have detained the deputy leader of the opposition-dominated National Assembly.
Edgar Zambrano is being prosecuted for high treason along with six other members of the Guaido-headed National Assembly, following last week’s attempt to remove Maduro from power.
The head of Venezuela’s top court has said the United States is trying to manipulate the Venezuelan justice system in an attempt to foment a coup.
Maikel Moreno, president of the Supreme Tribunal of Justice, spoke on Wednesday following US Vice President Mike Pence’s remarks that the US would extend sanctions to all members of the Venezuelan court if they continue to be a “political tool” of President Nicolas Maduro.
Moreno says Pence’s comments threaten the sovereignty of Venezuela, where a power struggle between Maduro and the US-backed opposition leader, Juan Guaido, has been going on for months.
Guaido visited supporters near the capital city’s international airport on Wednesday morning, just a day after the country’s top court opened a criminal investigation into several opposition politicians in the aftermath of a failed attempt to spark a military uprising against President Nicolas Maduro.
The nation’s highest court announced on Tuesday that the politicians are suspected of “betraying the homeland” and “instigating an insurrection,” among other charges.
The court initially had said seven faced investigation, but later in the day lowered the number to six without explanation.
Vice President Mike Pence said that the United States has lifted sanctions on Venezuelan General Manuel Cristopher Figuera, the former chief of the South American country’s intelligence service, who last week turned against President Nicolas Maduro.
“We hope this action will encourage others to follow the example of General Cristopher Figuera and other members of the military,” Pence said in a speech prepared for a conference at the State Department.
The EU-backed International Contact Group said it was essential to avoid escalating tensions in Venezuela, and that a resolution to the political and economic crisis in the country should be pursued via elections.
The European Union’s foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini delivered the exhortation at a news conference after a meeting of the contact group in the Costa Rican capital San Jose.
Venezuela’s Supreme Court said it had asked the country’s Constituent Assembly, a pro-government legislative superbody, to determine whether to open criminal proceedings against seven opposition lawmakers.
In a statement on Facebook, the court said the assembly would determine if proceedings could be opened to investigate crimes including conspiry, treason, and rebellion, without detailing which actions the lawmakers had taken that could be considered criminal.
The lawmakers include Henry Ramos Allup, a former National Assembly president.
Opposition-led congress authorised a $71m interest payment on state oil company PDVSA’s 2020 bond, which is backed by shares in US refiner Citgo.
Failure to make the payment could prompt creditors to attempt to seize shares in Citgo, a subsidiary of PDVSA and the country’s crown jewel overseas asset.
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s government has remained current on the 2020 bond even as it defaulted on some $8bn in other debt issued by the government and by PDVSA in order to avoid losing Citgo.
Juan Guaido has arrived at the National Assembly building Tuesday morning.
Venezuela’s military command denied press access to the National Assembly meeting by order of the military high command, although delegates were allowed to enter the ornate building for the session.
The National Assembly is scheduled to debate the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance, also known as the Rio Treaty, signed in 1947, which is a mutual defense accord. Venezuela rejected the treaty in 2012, along with other Alba countries.
Delegates are also scheduled to debate a motion rejecting the Maduro government’s threat to lift parliamentary immunity for assembly members.
Venezuela’s opposition leader Juan Guaido said on Monday that people who had pledged support for his abortive uprising last week had “failed to follow through” to dislodge President Nicolas Maduro.
“There were people who failed to follow through,” Guaido told AFP in an interview in Caracas, adding that “it doesn’t mean that they won’t do it soon.”
Guaido said it was “obvious today, there is widespread discontent from which the armed forces aren’t immune”.
“We are very close to achieving change in Venezuela,” he said.
“We are ready for all scenarios. The first is diplomacy, dialogue, peace,” Arreaza told a press conference after a meeting with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov.
But if Washington “opts for the military path, we have an armed force, a people, a national guard that will be able not just to resist and fight, but also to win,” he said.
In an interview with the BBC on Sunday, Juan Guaido reiterated that he was not ruling out the option of asking the US for military support.
The opposition leader stated he will “evaluate all options”, to overthrow President Maduro.
“I believe that it is not only wise to assess it given the crisis and tragedy that Venezuela is living through, but to prepare alternatives, if the regime intends to continue radicalising a process that has brought us to disaster,” Guaido said.
“I, as the president in charge of the national parliament, will evaluate all the necessary options,” he added.
Senators from the US state of Florida are increasing pressure on the Trump administration to act on the Venezuela crisis, calling it a national security matter.
After a Friday discussion with Venezuelan, Cuban and Nicaraguan exiles, Republican Senators Rick Scott and Marco Rubio chastised Cuba for aiding President Maduro in a standoff with US-backed Guaido.
The Cuban government denies accusations it has troops in Venezuela.
US President Trump said on Friday he focused on humanitarian aid for Venezuelans during a phone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin, backing away from his administration’s recent harsh rhetoric about Russian involvement in the crisis.
Trump and Putin spoke for more than an hour, their first known conversation since December and since tensions flared in Venezuela, where Washington backs Guaido and Moscow supports Maduro.
Trump told reporters at the White House: “He (Putin) is not looking at all to get involved in Venezuela other than he would like to see something positive happen … and I feel the same way. We want to get some humanitarian aid – right now people … have no food, they have no water.”
Venezuela’s top court has ordered the arrest of Leopoldo Lopez, an opposition activist who took refuge in the Spanish embassy after joining an attempt to topple President Maduro this week, for violating the terms of his house arrest.
On Tuesday, Lopez appeared outside a military base in Caracas with Guaido, who urged the military to overthrow Maduro. When the military did not heed the call, Lopez and his family sought refuge in the Chilean ambassador’s residence. They later moved to the Spanish embassy.
Lopez was previously detained for leading anti-government protests in 2014 and had been under house arrest for two years.
Two more opposition demonstrators, both minors, have died from injuries sustained in clashes with Venezuelan security forces, the opposition said on Thursday, bringing the death toll in two days of unrest to four.
A 14-year-old, Yoifre Hernandez, died after being shot during May Day clashes in Caracas, lawmakers and family members said.
They said the other youth, Yosner Graterol, 16, died after he was shot during unrest in the northern town of La Victoria on Tuesday.
Trump said the “brutal repression” of the Venezuelan people must end soon, adding that the Venezuelan people are starving and have no water.
Trump spoke Thursday at the White House as part of a National Day of Prayer ceremony. He began the event by saying he was sending prayers to the people of Venezuela in their “righteous struggle for freedom.”
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo plans to meet next week with his Russian counterpart as a dispute between Washington and Moscow over Venezuela intensifies.
A senior State Department official says Pompeo and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will resume an as-yet unproductive discussion on Venezuela when they are both in Finland for an Arctic Council meeting. The two traded warnings over the situation in Venezuela in a telephone call on Wednesday, and the official says they’re expected to pick up that conversation when they meet. The official was not authorised to discuss the matter publicly and spoke to reporters on condition of anonymity.
Maduro has called for military unity in an appearance with soldiers, two days after security forces failed to respond to Guaido’s call for an uprising.
Flanked by commanders, Maduro said on national television Thursday that the military must be prepared to combat “traitors” and that the opposition had sought to provoke bloodshed in Caracas since Guaido’s failed bid to take power.
Spain’s acting foreign minister denied that a Venezuelan anti-government activist had asked Spanish authorities for political asylum.
Josep Borrell said Lopez is staying as a guest of the Spanish embassy in Caracas, adding that, under Spanish law, requests for asylum can be made only in Spain.
A 27-year-old woman died on Wednesday night at a Venezuelan clinic after being shot in the head during anti-government protests in Caracas, according to a human rights organisation.
“We condemn the murder of the youth Jurubith Rausseo,” who was hit by a “bullet in the head during demonstration,” the Venezuelan Observatory of Social Conflict said on Twitter.
Close to triple the usual number of Venezuelans fled to Brazil on Tuesday, when Guaido led an attempt to overthrow Maduro, according to Brazilian government data released on Wednesday.
Some 850 Venezuelans came to Brazil on Tuesday by foot, the government said, compared with the usual range of 250 to 300.
Guaido has asked people to remain in the streets.
“If the regime thought we had reached maximum pressure, they cannot even imagine,” Guaido told thousands of supporters in Caracas.
He said he would consider a proposal from public workers to call a series of work stoppages leading up to a general strike to pressure Maduro.
Many people say they will continue to support Guaido.
“I go out because I want to live in democracy, I want to live in freedom.. we need to support these politicians that are trying to find an alternative,” Maria Ciares, 55, told Al Jazeera.
Additional reporting by Alicia Hernandez in Caracas
Diosdado Cabello, president of the National Constituent Assembly, said opponents are “like zombies” after Tuesday’s events.
“Yesterday hate and improvisation prevailed, nobody knows who is leading today. The opponents walk like zombies in the street waiting for a word of encouragement,” he said.
#VIDEO | @dcabellor en marcha del Día del Trabajador: Ayer se impuso el odio. Hoy nadie sabe quién dirige. Andan como zombies en las calles los opositores esperando a ver quién les da una palabra de aliento #TrabajadoresPorLaPatria pic.twitter.com/9b1hzlWVO8
— VTV CANAL 8 (@VTVcanal8) May 1, 2019
President Maduro said Venezuela needs to choose peace over violence.
“It was demonstrated that the interference, the coup and the armed confrontation, are not the way for our beloved Venezuela,” the president wrote on Twitter.
“The route to settle differences will always be constitutionality and mutual respect. [We] will overcome violence and we will restore the peace.”
Quedó demostrado que la injerencia, el golpismo y el enfrentamiento armado, no son el camino para nuestra amada Venezuela. La ruta para dirimir las diferencias siempre será la constitucionalidad y el respeto mutuo. Los Patriotas venceremos la violencia y ganaremos la Paz. pic.twitter.com/f8eN9sKQIA
— Nicolás Maduro (@NicolasMaduro) May 1, 2019
“Every day we try to do something more to contribute to change in the country,” he said.
“We have given a lot, even the life and freedom of political prisoners.”
“We are on the right path, today there is no turning back … we have a plan, a project … the option of change represents life, and life always finds its place,” he added.
The UN human rights office said on Wednesday it was “extremely worried” by reports of excessive use of force against demonstrators across Venezuela.
“We call on all sides to show maximum restraint and on the authorities to respect the right to peaceful assembly,” it said in a statement adding: “We also warn against the use of language inciting people to violence.”
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo by phone that further “aggressive steps” in Venezuela would be fraught with the gravest consequences, Russia’s foreign ministry said.
Lavrov also condemned what he called the US’s “interference” in Venezuela’s internal affairs as a breach of international law, adding that dialogue between all political forces in the country is required.
The US military is focused on collecting intelligence on the situation in Venezuela to be prepared to respond if President Trump requests, the top US general said on Wednesday.
“We are doing what we can now to collect intelligence and make sure we have good visibility on what is happening down in Venezuela and also be prepared to support the president should he require more from the US military,” Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Joseph Dunford said during a Congressional hearing.
Spain’s government has confirmed that Lopez –Guaido’s political mentor and Venezuela’s most prominent opposition activist – is at the Spanish ambassador’s residence in Caracas along with his wife and daughter.
Chilean Foreign Minister Roberto Ampuero had already said on Twitter that Lopez and his wife had made the “personal decision” to go to the Spanish embassy because the Chilean embassy “already had guests”.
Quiero actualizar información: Lilian Tintori y Leopoldo López -de ascendencia española- se trasladaron a embajada de España. Se trata de una decisión personal, considerando que nuestra embajada ya tenía huéspedes.
— Roberto Ampuero (@robertoampuero) April 30, 2019
US National Security Adviser John Bolton said that President Maduro is surrounded by “scorpions in a bottle” and it’s only a matter of time before he leaves power.
Bolton says key figures in Maduro’s leadership, including the defence minister and head of the presidential guard, have been “outed” as dealing with the opposition.
Brazil President Jair Bolsonaro has said he received information of fractures within the Venezuelan army that could lead to the “collapse” of the socialist government led by Maduro.
Bolsonaro said that Guaido, who many nations recognise as the legitimate president of Venezuela, had not been defeated after publicly calling on Tuesday for the military to back him and remove Maduro from power.
Guaido has called for Venezuelans to fill streets around the country to demand Maduro’s overthrow.
“Today we continue, these are the points of concentration today in Caracas. We continue with more strength than ever, Venezuela,” Guaido wrote on Twitter.
— Juan Guaidó (@jguaido) May 1, 2019
Maduro also called for his supporters to rally. “We will have a large, millions-strong march of the working class,” Maduro said in a Tuesday night television address.
“The working class has in me a president that will always defend their rights and claims,” Maduro wrote on Wednesday.
¡Feliz Día del Trabajador y la Trabajadora! La Clase Obrera tiene en mi un Presidente que siempre defenderá sus derechos y reivindicaciones, haciendo frente al imperio y a sus lacayos que pretenden arrebatarnos nuestras conquistas; fracasarán. ¡Nosotros venceremos! pic.twitter.com/ZxvxyDFdF6
— Nicolás Maduro (@NicolasMaduro) May 1, 2019
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was scheduled to speak with his Russian counterpart on Wednesday, White House national security adviser John Bolton said in television interviews.
Bolton would not elaborate on what the US knew about Russian involvement affecting Maduro’s plans, but he made clear Moscow’s interference was not welcome.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has said the Trump administration was prepared to take military action to stem the crisis in Venezuela.
“The president has been crystal clear … Military action is possible. If that’s what’s required, that’s what the United States will do,” Pompeo said on Fox Business Network.
Russia’s foreign ministry has rejected Washington’s suggestion that it had persuaded President Maduro not to flee in the face of street protests, calling the assertion part of an information war.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a US television interview that Maduro was prepared to leave the country in the face of a call for an uprising by Guaido, but reversed his plan after Russia intervened.
Maduro declared he had “defeated” an uprising of a group of soldiers backing Guaido, downplaying the effort as “putschist skirmishes”.
During a televised appearance on Tuesday, Maduro congratulated the armed forces for having “defeated this small group that intended to spread violence through putschist skirmishes”.
A number of Venezuelan troops have sought asylum in Brazil’s embassy in Caracas, a senior Brazilian official said Tuesday, after Venezuela’s self-declared president Guaido claimed soldiers had joined him.
A source in Brazilian President Bolsonaro’s office confirmed to AFP there had been “various applications” from Venezuelan soldiers, but would not say how many or what ranks. Brazilian media reported 25 had applied so far.
The White House says it hopes an attempted military uprising in Venezuela will be “enough to tip” leader Maduro out of power.
National Security Adviser John Bolton said on Tuesday that what was happening “is clearly not a coup” because the US and many other countries recognised Guaido as Venezuela’s legitimate president.
Bolton declined to discuss possible action – military or otherwise – by the US. Bolton said only that “all options are on the table.”
The European Union on Tuesday called for “utmost restraint” in the Venezuela crisis, as the government vowed to put down what it called an attempted coup by US-backed Guaido.
“The EU is closely following the latest events in Venezuela. We reiterate that there can only be a political, peaceful and democratic way out for the multiple crises the country is facing,” EU diplomatic chief Federica Mogherini said in a statement.
A Chilean official said that opposition activist Lopez and family have sought refuge in ambassador’s residence in Venezuela.
Brazil’s vice president said that the situation in Venezuela had reached a point of no return.
Former General Hamilton Mourao said Tuesday that either opposition leaders Guaido and Lopez would “be prisoners” – or Maduro “would be leaving”.
Mourao said, “There is no other way out of this.”
John Bolton on Tuesday singled out three senior aides to Maduro who he said must make good on commitments they purportedly made to the opposition for a peaceful transition away from Maduro’s rule.
Speaking at the White House during a day of anti-government protests in Venezuela, Bolton named Venezuelan Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino, Supreme Court chief judge Maikel Moreno and presidential guard commander Ivan Rafael Hernandez Dala as having told the opposition that Maduro needed to give up power to Guaido.
Canadian Foreign Minister Freeland said she requested an emergency meeting of the Lima Group by video conference for later on Tuesday to discuss the situation in Venezuela.
US President Trump on Tuesday said he is monitoring the situation in Venezuela very closely and reiterated US support for its people as Guaido moved further to overthrow Maduro.
“I am monitoring the situation in Venezuela very closely. The United States stands with the People of Venezuela and their Freedom!” Trump wrote on Twitter.
Venezuela’s Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza denied there was a military coup attempt under way to overthrow Maduro and accused Guaido of operating under orders from the US.
“It is not a coup attempt from the military. This is directly planned in Washington, in the Pentagon and Department of State, and by Bolton,” Arreaza told Reuters in a phone interview from Caracas, referring to US National Security Adviser John Bolton.
He said Maduro, who has been in power since 2013, was in full control of the country with the backing of the military.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday condemned a “coup attempt” in Venezuela after Guaido said he had the support of troops to overthrow Maduro.
“As a country which fought against coups and experienced the negative consequences caused by coups, we condemn the coup attempt in Venezuela,” Erdogan, a close ally of Maduro, wrote on Twitter.
A National Guard armored car slammed into anti-Maduro protesters who were throwing stones and hitting the vehicle in Caracas, video footage from Reuters showed.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urges maximum restraint in Venezuela to avoid violence, a UN spokesman said on Tuesday, after Guaido called for a military uprising to overthrow President Maduro.
“The Secretary-General urges all sides to exercise maximum restraint and he appeals to all stakeholders to avoid any violence and take immediate steps to restore calm,” UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters, adding that Guterres was available to mediate if both sides requested his help.
Venezuelan Defence Minister Vladimir Padrino said “acts of violence” by some members of the armed forces on Tuesday had been “partly defeated” and that the military’s top ranks remained “loyal to the constitution”.
US Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Adviser John Bolton all expressed support for the opposition as its two most prominent figures, Guaido and Lopez, called for the people, and the security forces, to rise up against Maduro.
“We are with you!” Pence tweeted to the opposition, in the most direct message of the three. “America will stand with you until freedom & democracy are restored.”
Pompeo welcomed what the Venezuelan opposition leaders were calling “Operacion Libertad,” in hopes that the abrupt release of Lopez from house arrest and the apparent backing of uniformed soldiers would prompt more members of the security forces to abandon Maduro.
Turkey criticised Venezuelan opposition calls for a military uprising to overthrow Maduro, saying they amounted to a challenge to the country’s constitutional order.
“We are worried about reports that there are certain attempts against the constitutional order in Venezuela. We are against anti-democratic methods to change legitimate governments,” Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Twitter.
Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs accused the opposition in Venezuela of resorting to violence in what it said was a brazen attempt to draw the country’s armed forces into clashes.
“The radical opposition in Venezuela has once again returned to violent methods of confrontation,” the ministry said. “Instead of peacefully settling political differences, they have taken a course designed to whip up conflict, and provoke breaches of public order and clashes involving the armed forces.”
President Bolsonaro has expressed his nation’s “solidarity” for the people of Venezuela.
Bolsonaro wrote on his official Twitter account that the people of Venezuela are “enslaved by a dictator” and that he supports “freedom for our sister nation to finally become a true democracy.”
O Brasil acompanha com bastante atenção a situação na Venezuela e reafirma o seu apoio na transição democrática que se processa no país vizinho. O Brasil está ao lado do povo da Venezuela, do presidente Juan Guaidó e da liberdade dos venezuelanos.
— Jair M. Bolsonaro (@jairbolsonaro) April 30, 2019
Mexico expressed concern over possible escalation of violence and bloodshed in Venezuela.
The Foreign Relations Department has issued a statement reiterating its willingness to seek a peaceful resolution through dialogue and says it is in contact with other countries with the goal of “finding a common path.”
Maduro says he had spoken with military leaders and they had shown him “their total loyalty,” after Guaido said he had the support of troops to overthrow Maduro.
“Nerves of steel!,” Maduro said on Twitter. “I call for maximum popular mobilisation to assure the victory of peace. We will win!”
¡Nervios de Acero! He conversado con los Comandantes de todas las REDI y ZODI del País, quienes me han manifestado su total lealtad al Pueblo, a la Constitución y a la Patria. Llamo a la máxima movilización popular para asegurar la victoria de la Paz. ¡Venceremos!
— Nicolás Maduro (@NicolasMaduro) April 30, 2019
Gunshots were heard at a rally led by Guaido outside a Caracas air base after he said that troops had joined him to overthrow Maduro, Reuters witnesses said.
The witnesses said men in military uniform, who were accompanying Guaido at the scene, were exchanging fire with soldiers acting in support of Maduro. The witnesses said the shots appeared to be live rounds.
John Bolton has appeared to back Guaido’s call for support after the Venezuelan opposition leader urged Venezuelans and the military to back his effort to overthrow Maduro.
.@vladimirpadrino: The FANB must protect the Constitution and the Venezuelan people. It should stand by the National Assembly and the legitimate institutions against the usurpation of democracy. The United States stands with the people of Venezuela.
— John Bolton (@AmbJohnBolton) April 30, 2019
Guaido has said he had begun the “final phase” of his plan to overthrow Maduro, calling on Venezuelans and the military to back him to end Maduro’s “usurpation.”
En el marco de nuestra constitución. Y por el cese definitivo de la usurpación. https://t.co/3RD2bnQhxt
— Juan Guaidó (@jguaido) April 30, 2019
The government dismissed any suggestion of a military insurrection.
“We reject this coup movement, which aims to fill the country with violence,” said Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino, adding that all military units across Venezuela “report normality” in their barracks and bases.
Son unos cobardes!! Nos mantendremos firmes en defensa del orden constitucional y de la paz de la República, asistidos como estamos por la ley, la razón y la historia. ¡Leales Siempre, Traidores nunca!
— Vladimir Padrino L. (@vladimirpadrino) April 30, 2019
Information Minister Jorge Rodriguez tweeted that the government was confronting a small group of “military traitors” seeking to promote a coup.
The US Treasury Department on Friday imposed sanctions on Venezuela’s foreign minister and a Venezuelan judge, according to a statement on the department’s website.
Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza and Judge Carol Padilla were the latest in a list of officials blacklisted by US authorities for their role in Maduro’s government.
The Venezuela’s opposition-run National Assembly said on Friday that opposition politician Gilber Caro had been arrested, which it said in a Twitter post was a violation of his parliamentary immunity.
Caro had previously been jailed along with hundreds of other activists involved in protests against Maduro, according to human rights groups.
At least 21 Venezuelans were missing after their boat sank on the way to Trinidad and Tobago, the UN refugee agency said on Friday, citing information from that country’s coast guard.
The boat, the Jhonnaly Jose, was carrying at least 25 people from the Venezuelan coastal town of Guiria when it capsised in the early hours of Wednesday, UNHCR spokesman Babar Baloch told a regular UN briefing in Geneva.
Cuba challenged the Trump administration to back up its allegations that the communist government has embedded troops and intelligence agents throughout the Maduro administration.
At a press conference on Thursday, Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez called US National Security Advisor John Bolton a “pathological liar” for saying some 20,000 Cubans were in Venezuela providing security support for Maduro.
A Venezuelan opposition envoy has addressed the Organization of the American States (OAS) from the South American country’s seat, for the first time in two decades.
Gustavo Tarre delivered a speech during a session held by the OAS’s Permanent Council on Tuesday, three months after Guaido declared himself interim leader.
Ambassadors from at least four Caribbean countries left the room before he spoke, refusing to recognise him as Venezuela’s representative to the OAS.
US-backed Guaido on Friday called on supporters to take to the streets on May 1 for what he called “the largest march in the history” of the South American country to keep the pressure on Maduro to leave power.
Guaido – who in January declared himself interim president on the basis that Maduro’s 2018 re-election was illegitimate – reiterated his call for the country’s armed forces to take his side in the three-month power struggle.
Maduro is funnelling cash from Venezuelan oil sales through Russian state energy giant Rosneft as he seeks to evade US sanctions designed to remove him from power, according to sources and documents reviewed by Reuters news agency.
The sales are the latest sign of the growing dependence of Venezuela’s cash-strapped government on Russia as the US tightens a financial noose around Maduro.
The first shipment of Red Cross humanitarian aid arrived in Venezuela on Tuesday, delivering medicine and supplies for needy patients whose president has long denied the existence of a humanitarian crisis.
Workers loaded boxes onto trucks while leaders with the organisation pleaded for officials to keep the aid out of the nation’s political dispute.
“It will be distributed in conformance with the fundamental principles of our movement, especially neutrality, impartiality and independence,” said Mario Villarroel, president of the Venezuelan Red Cross.
The Lima Group regional bloc on Monday called for the exit of foreign security and intelligence forces from Venezuela and reiterated its rejection of the use of military force in the crisis-stricken South American nation.
The Lima Group made up of mostly Latin American countries called on the United Nations on Monday to “take action” to prevent an escalation of Venezuela’s humanitarian crisis.
The group of 14 countries, which includes Canada, exhorted UN Secretary-General Guterres, the General Assembly and the Security Council to “take measures to avoid the progressive deterioration of peace and security, and to provide urgent humanitarian aid to the population of migrants coming from Venezuela.”
Venezuela accused Canada of supporting US President Trump’s “war adventure” after Ottawa announced new sanctions on top officials in Maduro’s government.
In a statement, Venezuela’s foreign ministry said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau “has invalidated Canada as a reliable actor in dialogue” and had “declared their intention to destroy the Venezuelan economy to inflict suffering on the people.”
Canada announced new sanctions against 43 members of Maduro’s government, including Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza, whom it holds “responsible for the deteriorating situation” in the crisis-wracked South American country.
The sanctions included a freeze on the individuals’ assets and a ban on them conducting business with Canada, which previously sanctioned another 70 top government officials.
The US secretary of state in the Colombian border town of Cucuta on Sunday said the US will continue to pressure Maduro, and use “every economic and political means … to help the Venezuelan people”.
“Using sanctions, visa revocations and other means, we pledge to hold the regime and those propping it up accountable for their corruption and their repression of democracy,” Mike Pompeo said.
Pompeo met with Venezuelan refugees and called on Maduro to open the border to let aid through and to step down as president.
In his last stop on a four-country tour in Latin America he said Russia and Cuba would pay a price for supporting Maduro.