Opposition leader Juan Guaidó called for fresh protests in the streets of Caracas Wednesday, less than 24 hours after he attempted to wrest power from President Nicolás Maduro in a coup.
"Today we continue," Guaidó tweeted. "We will keep going with more strength than ever, Venezuela." He put out a call for opposition protesters to gather at specific rallying points throughout his opposition strongholds in Caracas.
But things haven’t gone according to plan for the 35-year-old leader. Despite declaring that the military was behind him and calling for a mass uprising, Gauido struggled to impose his will over Caracas, and most of the country’s forces appeared to still be acting in Maduro’s interests. Both sides clashed in the streets of Caracas, and gunfire was exchanged. At least 70 people were injured in yesterday’s demonstrations, CNN reported.
On Wednesday, Maduro said he had put down an “attempted coup” by Guaidó. And in a grim sign for the opposition, famed opposition activist Leopoldo López sought refuge inside Spain’s embassy in Caracas. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights said that Tuesday’s demonstrations spanned 24 Venezuelan states and were “strongly repressed” in at least 12, according to CNN.
That hasn’t stopped Guaidó from pushing ahead in his bid to grab power. Indeed, both sides have called on their supporters to rally in the streets Wednesday.
Maduro, who was largely hidden from public view yesterday, urged his supporters to take to the streets, and defend Venezuela from “yankee interference.”
“Today, the Venezuelan working class will mobilize in every part of the country to celebrate its day and defend its achievements with a great march that will say, NO to the coup and NO to yankee interference,” Maduro said, in a tweet Wednesday, noting the significance of May Day, a national holiday in Venezuela.
Yet international pressure could soon pose greater trouble for the embattled leader. On Wednesday, Gauido’s most powerful international backer, the U.S., raised the specter of military intervention.
"If that’s what’s required, that’s what the United States will do," said Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Fox Business. Pompeo’s warning followed a day of sabre-rattling from the White House: National Security Advisor John Bolton threatened Venezuela’s top military brass to break with Maduro or “go down with the ship.”
President Donald Trump, meanwhile, directed his ire at Venezuela’s allies, threatening Cuba with sanctions, and a “full and complete embargo” if they didn’t withdraw their troops from Venezuela. The U.S. has accused Russia and Cuba of supporting Maduro, and claims that 20,000 Cuban troops and agents are on the ground in Venezuela, though the Cuban government denies that any of its military forces are there.
Maduro has faced mounting international pressure in recent years. He’s overseen a dramatic decline in his country’s economy. Power outages plague much of the country, and food, medicine and job shortages have forced millions to flee.
Guaidó, meanwhile, has presented himself as the antidote since declaring himself interim president in January. He’s earned the support of more than 50 countries, with promises of democratic reform and calls for a peaceful transfer of power. But he’s failed to gain the widespread support inside the country and from its military ranks, which he needs to effectively vie for power.
Tuesday’s uprising didn’t seem to help matters, and demonstrations soon turned violent. Photos and video showed both sides engaging in violent clashes. One widely circulated video captured Maduro’s military trucks ramming into a crowd of opposition protesters as they threw objects at it.
Thousands of supporters for both sides of the power struggle are expected to take to the streets again on Wednesday.
Cover: An opponent of Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro raises a machete during an attempted military uprising outside the La Carlota airbase in Caracas, Venezuela, Tuesday, April 30, 2019. Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó and jailed opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez took to the streets with a small contingent of armed troops early Tuesday in a call for the military to rise up and oust Maduro. (AP Photo/Boris Vergara)