Heavy gunfire crackled through the Venezuelan capital of Caracas on Tuesday after opposition leader Juan Guaido called for a military uprising to oust President Nicolas Maduro.
Guaido urged protesters and members of the military to join what he called the ‘final phase of Operation Liberty’ in a video taken at La Carlota airbase in the capital Caracas while surrounded by heavily-armed soldiers.
The troops then set up defensive positions around the base before Maduro’s forces arrived and opened fire with teargas followed by live rounds, according to witnesses.
Guaido claimed that Maduro had lost the support of the military, but the President said he had spoken with his officers who had assured him of their ‘total loyalty’.
‘Nerves of steel!,’ Maduro said on Twitter. ‘I call for maximum popular mobilization to assure the victory of peace. We will win!’
Members of the Bolivarian National Guard supporting Venezuelan opposition leader and self-proclaimed acting president Juan Guaido reload their weapons during clashes on Tuesday
Venezuelan soldiers who have backed Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido exchanged gunfire with troops loyal to President Maduro outside La Carlota airbase in the capital Caracas on Tuesday
Opponents to Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro confront loyalist Bolivarian National Guard troops firing tear gas at them outside La Carlota military airbase in Caracas
Opposition demonstrators face military vehicles near the Generalisimo Francisco de Miranda Airbase
An opposition demonstrator bleeds from his head as he is carried by fellow protesters after being run over by a Venezuelan National Guard vehicle on a street near the Generalisimo Francisco de Miranda Airbase ‘La Carlota’ in Caracas
Bullets began flying after Guaido, who has been trying to oust Maduro for months with largely peacrful protests, called for a military uprising against him, claiming he had lost support of the army
Guaido called on members of the public and soldiers to join him on the streets to oust Maduro in what he described as the ‘final phase of Operation Liberty’
An opposition demonstrator throwing a tear gas canister during clashes with soldiers loyal to Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro after troops joined opposition leader Juan Guaido in his campaign to oust Maduro’s government, in front of La Carlota military base in Caracas
An injured man is helped during a demonstration in Caracas. Reports state that at least one person was injured during the clashes at La Carlota after Guaido called for mass anti-government protests backed by the military
Protesters representing Juan Guaido were caught in the cross-fire and ran through clouds of tear gas in order to take cover
A military member and a man take cover near the Generalisimo Francisco de Miranda Airbase ‘La Carlota’ in Caracas
Guaido has based himself at La Carlota airbase in the capital Caracas (pictured, protesters nearby), where heavy gunfire was heard hours after his announcement
A solider loyal to Guaido aims his handgun over the parapet of an overpass near the La Carlota airbase in Caracas
Tear gas canisters were fired at civilians and troops who had joined Guaido on Tuesday morning, before apparent clashes with Maduro’s troops
Guaido has been trying to oust Maduro for months using largely peaceful protests, but that changed on Tuesday as he announced an uprising against the President
A large number of people on motorbikes gathered on a motorway overpass leading to the airbase before tear gas was fired, followed by live rounds
Soldiers who had defected to Guaido were seen setting up heavy machine gun posts on the overpass shortly before gunfire broke out
Venezuelan military forces fire tear gas in an attempt to disperse protesters at the airbase
Troops loyal to President Maduro are seen gathered near the airbase amid clashes with those who have joined the cause of ‘interim president’ Juan Guaido
A protesters throws a stone at a vehicle of the Guardia Nacional which have largely remained loyal to Maduro during protests
A member of the Bolivarian National Guard supporting Venezuelan opposition leader and self-proclaimed acting president Juan Guaido throws a tear gas canister
Support for Nicolas Maduro’s regime comes from Russia, China, Turkey, Mexico and Iran, wheres the EU, United States, Canada, Australia and neighbours Brazil recognise Juan Guaido as leader of Venezuela
Guaido, who has the backing of the US and most Western governments, has been trying to oust Maduro for months using largely non-violent protests.
American National Security Adviser John Bolton, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Vice President Mike Pence have since tweeted their support for Guaido, saying: ‘The United States stands with the people of Venezuela.’
Venezuela crisis: Which countries are supporting the opposition?
Supporting ‘interim’ President Juan Guaido:
- United States
- United Kingdom
- Costa Rica
- The EU 27
Supporting incumbent President Nicolas Maduro:
U.S. President Donald Trump ‘has been briefed and is monitoring the ongoing situation,’ White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said.
Meanwhile two of the key international allies of Maduro – Bolivia and Cuba – condemned what they described as a coup attempt by violent rebels.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, another key ally of Venezuela that has invested billions in the country’s oil industry, was ‘discussing’ the situation with his top security team.
Mexico expressed concern about an escalation in violence and called on both sides to seek a peaceful resolution through dialogue.
Protests appeared to be spreading around the country following Guaido’s call, with the leader claiming that people in 24 states had come out to support him.
It comes after years of mis-management have left the country impoverished, wracked by inflation and food shortages, and following Maduro’s ‘victory’ in elections that many decried as rigged.
Meanwhile hundreds of supporters of President Nicolas Maduro have gathered at a rally beside Venezuela’s presidential palace, where security force members are deployed on the perimeter wall.
The Maduro loyalists have been chanting slogans of support and a man on a truck has handed out large posters of Maduro with the Venezuelan flag behind him.
Guaido called on Venezuelans and the military to join him on the streets, as government vowed to put down what it said was an attempted coup.
In the three-minute video Guaido, speaking in the company of men in military uniform and opposition politician Leopoldo Lopez, said he was at the Caracas air base La Carlota.
Soldiers who took to the streets would be acting to protect Venezuela’s constitution, Guaido said. He made the comments a day before a planned anti-government rally.
‘The moment is now,’ he said, as his political mentor Lopez and several heavily armed soldiers backed by a single armored vehicle looked on.
Opposition leader Juan Guaido appeared in a video (pictured) with a small contingent of heavily armed soldiers and formerly detained opposition activist Leopoldo Lopez calling for Venezuelans to take to the streets to oust President Maduro in Operation Liberty
Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido said on Tuesday he had began the ‘final phase’ of his plan to oust President Nicolas Maduro
Maduro hit back on Twitter, saying that he maintained the complete loyalty of the military on Twitter and pledging ‘nerves of steel’ for the fight ahead
US-backed Mr Guaido said ‘the end of the usurpation’ was beginning against the government of Nicolas Maduro (pictured)
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Adviser John Bolton both backed Guaido’s call, saying that American ‘stands with the Venezuelan people’
After announcing the final phase of his uprising, Guaido left the military base in order to hold a rally on the streets of Caracas in order to prove he holds popular support
Guaido, center, stands with an unidentified military officer who is helping to lead a military uprising, center left, as they talk to the press and supporters outside La Carlota air base in Caracas
Defected Venezuelan Bolivarian National Guards and soldiers shout slogans against Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro in La Parada near Cucuta, Colombia
A member of Venezuelan Bolivarian National Guard who has defected to Guaido holds up a Venezuelan flag with the Spanish message ‘Resistance’ written on it during a protest in La Parada near Cucuta
Defected members of the Venezuelan Bolivarian National Guard sing Venezuela’s national anthem and yell anti-government slogans as a loyalist guard films them with his cell phone at the border bridge between Venezuela and Colombia
Members of the public cheer as soldiers who have swapped loyalties to Guaido march into the Carlota airbase in Caracas
Military personnel loyal to Venezuelan interim President Juan Guaido hug each other outside the airbase in Caracas as they try to topple Nicolas Maduro from power
Defected members of the Venezuelan Bolivarian National Guard and soldiers stand in formation at the Simon Bolivar International Bridge, which links Venezuela and Colombia, in La Parada near Cucuta
Lopez has been under house arrest for leading an anti-government push in 2014.
Making his first public appearance since his detention, Mr Lopez said: ‘This is the moment of all Venezuelans, those in uniform and those who aren’t.
‘Everyone should come to the streets, in peace.’
Lopez said he had been ‘freed’ from jail by soldiers supporting Guaido. He posted a picture on Twitter with men in uniform from the Carlota military base.
‘Venezuela: the definitive phase to end the usurpation, Operation Liberty, has begun,’ read the message.
US-backed Mr Guaido also said ‘the end of the usurpation’ was beginning against the Maduro goverment.
‘In this moment I am meeting with the principal military units of our Armed Forces giving the start to the final phase of Operation Liberty,’ he added.
‘The national armed forces have taken the correct decision, and they count on the support of the Venezuelan people,’ Guaido said.
Venezuela’s information Minister Jorge Rodriguez responded on Twitter, saying the government is confronting a small group of ‘military traitors’ that are seeking to promote a coup.
Mr Rodriguez tweeted: ‘We inform the people of Venezuela at the moment we are confronting and deactivating a reduced group of military traitors who are positioning themselves in the Distribuidor Altamira (neighbourhood) to promote a coup d’etat against the constitution and the peace of the Republic.
Lopez (centre), who had been under house arrest for leading an anti-government push in 2014, said he had been freed by soldiers and called for a military uprising
Venezuelan opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez talks to media after being released from his home in Caracas, Venezuela, where he has been kept under house arrest since 2014
Uprising soldiers stands outside La Carlota air base in Caracas on Tuesday April 30
A pro-Guaido supporter throws a molotov cocktail near military base of La Carlota, in Caracas, Venezuela
Guaido supporters wearing gas masks and gloves pick up and throw tear gas canisters fired by pro-Maduro troops
A medic mounted on a motorbike makes his way through crowds near the airbase in Caracas after reports of gunfire
Supporters of the Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido Pro-coup marching near military base of La Carlota, in Caracas
Soldiers and people react to the sound of gunfire near the Generalisimo Francisco de Miranda Airbase, in Caracas
‘To this intent is added the putschist and murderous ultra right which announced its violent agenda months ago.
‘We call on the people to maintain maximum alert so, together the glorious National Armed Bolivarian forces defeat the intent to mount a coup and preserve the peace. We will win.’
Venezuela’s socialist party boss, Diosdado Cabello, called on government supporters to amass at the presidential palace to defend Maduro.
Guaido invoked the constitution to assume the interim presidency in January after declaring Maduro’s re-election a fraud.
He has the support of more than 50 countries, including the United States, which also recognise him as interim president.
The uprising came ahead of planned May Day protests which were going to be used to call for Maduro’s removal, and appeared to be an attempt to build up momentum.
Guaido has said the protests 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.
But Maduro, for his part, has appeared to retain control of state institutions and the loyalty of military officers.
A Venezuelan soldier stands guard at La Carlota army base, where Venezuelan opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez was led to meet with interim President Juan Guaido after he being released from his home, in eastern Caracas
Tear gas was fired at a highway overpass next to the Caracas air base where several heavily-armed soldiers with a blue band wrapped around their forearms had been standing guard. The tear gas appeared to have been fired from inside the air base
Tear gas floats in the air near the Generalisimo Francisco de Miranda Airbase ‘La Carlota’, in Caracas
People react to tear gas near the Generalisimo Francisco de Miranda Airbase ‘La Carlota’, in Caracas
Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido has called for a military uprising, in a video shot at the air base showing him surrounded by soldiers and accompanied by detained activist Leopoldo Lopez
Protesters walk past a fire on the streets of Venezuela’s capital Caracas as protests against Nicolasa Maduro spread
He has called Guaido a U.S-backed puppet who seeks to oust 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 lawmaker Gilber Caro – had been detained, and that 11 members of his team had been summoned to appear before the Sebin intelligence agency.
Lopez, seen with Guaido, appeared to have left his home for the first time since being placed under house arrest in 2017, after three years in jail.
‘I have been freed by soldiers on the side of the constitution and President Guaido,’ he tweeted. All of us have to mobilize. It’s time to win our freedom.’
A soldier in the group with Guaido, who identified himself just as Rivas, denied government accusations that they had been tricked into backing Guaido.
‘We’re all afraid,’ he told Reuters, ‘but we had to do it’.
Spain, instrumental in setting the European Union line, said that, although it considered Guaido the legitimate leader of Venezuela, it did not support a military coup and wanted to see elections.
Pictured: Opponents to Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro run from loyalist Bolivarian National Guard troops firing tear gas at them. Loyalists troops were locked in frantical battles with opposition supporters across the country on Tuesday afternoon
Soldiers on motorbikes speed away as opposition supporters pelt them with objects during clashes outside the La Carlota military airbase in Caracas, Venezuela
Civilians wearing rudimentary motorcycle helmets for protection crouch behind a concrete wall as members of the military loyal to the opposition sit ready with rifles and ammunition
Guaidó’s ambassador to the United States, Carlos Vecchio, called the action on Tuesday ‘only the beginning’ as he warned ‘you will see more events in the hours and days to come’
Venezuela leadership battle: A timeline of key events
April 2013: Maduro is elected leader of the South American nation, succeeding Hugo Chavez as President.
February 18 2014: Opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez is placed under house arrest after a wave of protests against Maduro.
July 17 2017: Millions of Venezuelans vote down Maduro’s plans to take control of the country’s National Assembly.
May 20 2018: Maduro wins another snap election despite claims of vote rigging by opposition leaders.
January 23 2019: Guaido declares himself acting president at a rally of tens of thousands of people in Caracas demanding that Maduro quit.
US President Donald Trump immediately recognizes Guaido as acting president, as do Canada and major Latin American powers.
Maduro gets the support of allies including China, Russia, Turkey, Mexico and Cuba.
January 26: Six European countries say they will also recognize Guaido unless Maduro calls elections.
January 30: thousands of opposition protesters, led by Guaido, call on Venezuela’s military to abandon Maduro.
He demands that the Venezuelan government allow in foreign humanitarian aid, claiming the lives of thousands of people are at risk.
February 4: Some 20 European countries also recognize Guaido.
February 16: Guaido says he has the support of thousands of people to bring in aid via Colombia, Brazil and the Dutch island of Curacao.
Venezuelan troops however block the road, preventing the aid from entering.
February 21: Maduro shuts the border with Brazil.
February 22: Russia also accuses the United States of using aid deliveries as a ploy for military action.
March 7: most of Venezuela is plunged into darkness by a major power cut that lasts five days, followed by sporadic blackouts.
March 24: two Russian military planes bring in around 100 soldiers and 35 tons of equipment.