Hundreds of Venezuelans rallied on Tuesday after opposition leader Juan Guaido called for a “military uprising” in his strongest move to take down President Nicolas Maduro since declaring himself interim president earlier this year.
Guaido, in a video posted on Twitter earlier on Tuesday, said he had started the “final phase” of his campaign to remove Maduro from power, calling on Venezuelans and the military to back him.
He was surrounded by individuals in military uniforms and opposition politician Leopoldo Lopez in Venezuela, who has been under house arrest since being found guilty of inciting violence during anti-government protests in 2014.
Guaido said he was at the Caracas airbase La Carlota and called for people to come out in support as well.
“The time is now,” Guaido said. “We are going to achieve freedom and democracy in Venezuela,” he added, urging supporters to take to the streets.
Shortly after, a small group of armed troops, who had appeared to pledge their support to Guaido, briefly clashed with soldiers supporting Maduro. Protesters and security forces also clashed. Video from Reuters showed a National Guard vehicle running over some protesters. And residents in different areas of Caracas also reported hearing the gunshots in the streets. There were reports of dozens of injuries.
But by Tuesday afternoon, most of the clashes had ended, with Maduro’s government saying they were in full control and had the support of the military.
“What took place today is an act of hostility” Giuseppe Yoffreda, Venezuela’s Ambassador in Qatar said.
“They are trying to execute a coup as a desperate attempt that seeks to [distract] and hide a lack of leadership,” he added.
Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino also called the move a “coup attempt”.