Caracas clashed with protesters and police on Tuesday after Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó appeared alongside soldiers at a military base and called on the people to stand up against the president.
Brave patriots, brave men of the constitution, have responded to our call, "Guaidó said in a video posted on social media, and spoke in a direct challenge to Generalissimo Francisco de Miranda's Air Base, one Military airport in Caracas known as La Carlota to the government.
He had previously demanded that the military should rise against the government of President Nicolás Maduro, but this was a new step flanked by men in uniform, based in the heart of the capital. With few exceptions, the military has protected Mr. Maduro so far.
"We are counting on the people of Venezuela today," he said in the video. "The armed forces are clearly on the side of the people."
Jorge Rodríguez, the government's information minister, said on Twitter that the government "confronted and inactivated a small group of military traitors" who had taken over the base "to promote a coup d'état." He accused the "ultra-fast coup", which he claimed had been pressing for months in Venezuela for a violent agenda.
Behind Mr Guaidó, who calls himself [selbst] since January Leopoldo López, a member of his party, who was sentenced to almost 14 years imprisonment following protests in 2014 and put under house arrest by the government. Mr. López did not speak in the video, but issued messages on Twitter releasing soldiers.
"I was dismissed from the military by order of the Constitution and President Guaidó," he wrote in his first Twitter posts since 2017. "Everyone mobilized. It's time to conquer freedom.
Speaking to reporters near the runway, Guaidó said that a broad field of military support now supports him, including the commanders-in-chief, but he declined to publish their names.
"There are generals, there are lieutenant colonels, there are majors, there are colonels – it is a reflection of the country," he said.
Mr. Guaidó said he had no communication with Mr. Maduro.
The government and supporters of Mr. Guaidó seemed to be preparing for another confrontation. Armed groups and government protesters had surrounded the presidential palace of Maduro until the morning.
In other parts of the city, National Guard soldiers and policemen fought against protesters who protested the government's Guaidós call. Witnesses said tear gas canisters could be detonated near the military base.
Videos posted on social media showed demonstrators approaching the air base and waving Venezuelan flags.
"I think that's very important, but I see apathy and fear among people," said one of the demonstrators, Mary Galaviz, 69. "We should not be afraid. In the war there is death, but the goals are achieved. "
Miriam Segovia, 52, another demonstrator near the base, said she hoped the armed forces would" put themselves on the side of the Constitution to escape this misery. "This hunger and lack of medication. "
The Venezuelan economy has fallen sharply since 2014 due to mismanagement, US sanctions and corruption . Millions of people have emigrated and the approximately 30 million people still alive are plagued by hyperinflation and lack of medicines, food, electricity and jobs.
Mr. Maduro, in office since 2013, won re-election last year in a widely regarded fraudulent competition. In January, the opposition-controlled National Assembly led by Mr Guaidó declared the election and the government unlawful, and Guaidó claimed that he was the rightful transitional leader.
More than 50 countries, including the United States and most of their close allies recognized him as the legitimate leader of Venezuela.
On Tuesday morning, Vice President Mike Pence reiterated American support for the opposition, encouragement on Twitter : "To @jgauido, to the National Assembly and to all the freedom-loving people in Venezuela today in #operacionlibertad on the Go Road – Estamos is fighting! We are with you! America will stay with you until freedom and democracy are restored. Vayan con dios!
The appearance of Guaidó and López on Tuesday, with the obvious support of some national guardsmen, immediately led to rumors in Caracas that the armed forces could postpone loyalty.
A central pillar Mr Guaidó's strategy has lured the military to his side, and a number of officers have defected. However, this was never enough for a complete uprising against Mr. Maduro.
In January, just before Mr Guaidó declared himself president, members of the National Guard promised him loyalty at a base in Caracas. The government stormed the base and arrested some of the soldiers.
One of the soldiers later appeared in a Colombian border town seeking asylum, where he joined several thousand soldiers who had raided.
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