Venezuela latest: Juan Guaido calls for final phase of #OperationLiberty after violent clashes in bid to oust Maduro

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Venezuela latest: Juan Guaido calls for final phase of #OperationLiberty after violent clashes in bid to oust MaduroVenezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido said on Tuesday evening that President Nicolas Maduro did not have the support of the armed forces, and called on members of the military to "keep advancing" in efforts to oust the socialist leader. The message, posted to Mr Guaido's social media accounts, came after a day of violent protests in the country’s capital after the leader appeared with military members committed to his cause. He called on supporters to take to the streets again on Wednesday. "Tomorrow we continue with the execution of OperationLiberty," he wrote.   "We begin the final phase and we will be in a sustained way in the streets until we achieve the cessation of the usurpation. Let's go with everything, with more strength and determination!" A few thousand protesters were pelted with tear gas in Caracas on Tuesday and at one point an armoured vehicle rammed into the crowds, appearing to leave some people injured.  Dozens of people were reportedly injured in clashes as the violence spread across the country throughout the day. Earlier in the day Mr Guaido, who has declared himself interim president, released a video of himself alongside around a dozen soldiers who he claimed had defected.  He praised the “braze soldiers” and urged more to do likewise, saying the “final push” toward removing embattled socialist president Nicolas Maduro was underway.  Soldiers ride on top of a car with supporters of Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido during anti-goverment protests, in Caracas Credit: CARLOS EDUARDO RAMIREZ/Reuters Leopoldo Lopez, a fellow opposition politician, also appeared in the video despite being under house arrest since 2017. He claimed forces loyal to Mr Guaido had released him. Mr Maduro’s government labelled the move an attempted “coup”, a description echoed by supportive politicians abroad, and vowed to crack down on the “military traitors”. Mr Maduro later said military leaders had assured him they remained loyal. There were few public signs that Mr Guaido’s call had triggered a broader revolt among commanders.  US Secretary of state Mike Pompeo claimed that Mr Maduro had been set to fly out of Venezuela on Tuesday morning but was talked out of it by the Russians. Mr Trump publicly accused Cuba of conducting military options in Venezuela to support Mr Maduro and threatened a “complete embargo” and “highest-level sanctions” unless they stopped.  Bruno Rodríguez, Cuba's Minister of Foreign Affairs denied there the presence of any Cuban military in the country, writing on Twitter: "There are no Cuban troops in Venezuela; nor are there any Cubans taking part in military or security operations there." US Nat Sec Advisor Bolton is pathological liar who misinforms Trump. There are no Cuban troops in Venezuela; nor are there any Cubans taking part in military or security operations there. Only medical staff in humanitarian mission. I strongly reject Trump’s total blockade threat— Bruno Rodríguez P (@BrunoRguezP) 30 April 2019 Senior US administration figures gave their vocal backing to Mr Guaido, with vice president Mike Pence, Mr Pompeo and national security adviser John Bolton all issuing supportive statements. Mr Trump tweeted: “I am monitoring the situation in Venezuela very closely. The United States stands with the people of Venezuela and their freedom!  I am monitoring the situation in Venezuela very closely. The United States stands with the People of Venezuela and their Freedom!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 30, 2019 Mr Bolton said that America was “very well informed” with what was taking place and again declined to rule out military action, insisting “all options” were on the table. But Antonio Guterres, the United Nations secretary general, urged “maximum restraint” on all sides, while the body’s spokesman said the dispute must be resolved “peacefully”.  Sir Alan Duncan, the UK government minister for the Americas, said he was watching events “very closely”, adding that Mr Guaido had shown “courage, creativity and resolution”.  Mr Guaido and his supporters gathered near the Generalissimo Francisco de Miranda Air Base, the military airport in Caracas where his video appeared to have been shot.  President of the Venezuelan Parliament Juan Guaido Credit:  Miguel Gutierrez/REX Around 70 soldiers wearing blue armbands in support for Mr Guaido reportedly squared off against security forces loyal to the regime. One pro-Guaido solider was injured in the clashes.  As more supporters joined, the scenes turned increasingly ugly. Footage showed water cannons being used on the crowds and, at one moment, a military vehicle smashing into protesters.  On Tuesday night at least 25 Venezuelan troops sought asylum in Brazil's embassy in Caracas, a senior Brazilian official said. A spokesman for Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro said soldiers and lieutenants were among the applicants. The petitions for asylum came as Bolsonaro threw his support behind Venezuelans "enslaved by a dictator," a reference to President Nicolas Maduro whom Guaido is challenging for power. "Brazil is on the side of the people of Venezuela, President Juan Guaido and the freedom of Venezuelans," Bolsonaro said in a series of tweets. "We support the freedom of this sister nation to finally live a true democracy." Opposition demonstrators face military vehicles near the Generalisimo Francisco de Miranda Airbase "La Carlota" in Caracas Credit:  CARLOS GARCIA RAWLINS/Reuters Tuesday's call for a military uprising was the boldest attempt yet by Mr Guaido, who cited constitutional powers back in January to declare himself interim president, to force Mr Maduro from power. His claim has been supported by America and more than 50 other countries, some of whom have implemented sanctions. But others, including Russia, are backing Mr Maduro. In the video, Mr Guaido, 35, spoke directly to camera as more than a dozen soldiers dressed in military uniform, some holding guns, stood to attention behind him. “Today, brave soldiers, brave patriots, brave men loyal to the Constitution have followed our call,” said Mr Guaido, who is also president of the country’s National Assembly.  He called on people to take to the streets all over Venezuela and claimed that “the definitive end of the usurpation starts today”. He added: “Today as the caretaker president of Venezuela, as the legitimate commander-in-chief of the armed forces, I call on all soldiers, the military family, to accompany us in this mission.”  Mr Lopez, seen as Mr Guaido’s political mentor, stood behind. He later said: “I want to tell the Venezuelan people: This is the moment to take to the streets and accompany these patriotic soldiers.”  There were reports the action was taken earlier than planned because Mr Guaido feared imminent arrest.  Soon after the video, which appeared to have been filmed in the early morning, was posted online the move was condemned by Mr Maduro’s ministers.  Vladimir Padrino, the Venezuelan defence minister, said: "We reject this coup movement, which aims to fill the country with violence.” He insisted the country’s forces remained loyal to Mr Maduro.  Jorge Rodriguez, the country’s information minister, wrote on Twitter that the “military traitors" who were seeking to promote a “coup” were being confronted.  A Kremlin spokesman and the Bolivan president Evo Morales, key allies of Mr Maduro, called the uprising a “coup” attempt. Cuba’s foreign minister also denounced the move.  But Donald Trump’s administration issued statements of support. Mr Pence tweeted to Mr Guaido and his supporters: “We are with you! America will stand with you until freedom and democracy are restored.”  Sprain, instrumental in shaping the European Union’s stance on Venezuela, was more cautious, with a government spokesman calling for a “peaceful democratic process” rather than “bloodshed”.  It was unclear whether Mr Guaido’s message had resonated with the military leaders whose support is critical in keeping Mr Maduro in power despite a crumbling economy and electricity blackouts.  A soldier in the group with Mr Guaido denied government claims they had been tricked into acting, telling Reuters: “We're all afraid, but we had to do it.”  Another protest called for by Mr Guaido and his supporters is due to take place today.


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