Venezuela's opposition leader Guaido claims support of soldiers in Caracas

Thursday, 02 May, 2019

His comments come the day after Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido joined with dozens of National Guard members in his latest attempt to topple President Nicolas Maduro, sparking violent protests.

Protesting from both sides has intensified since Guaido, who calls himself the "legitimate commander in chief of armed forces", released a video message on Tuesday, alerting the Venezuelan people that the final phase of "Operation Freedom" was to rally the support of the military against Maduro.

An attempted coup now unfolding in Venezuela is a bleak reminder that the Latin American nation is grappling with a worsening humanitarian, socio-political and economic crisis, with opposition leaders out on the streets with armed soldiers calling for a military uprising.

Tensions in Venezuela have been ratcheted up to a critical level this year, after Guaido, who is head of the opposition-ruled National Assembly, announced January 23 that he was the acting president under the constitution.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Wednesday the administration of President Donald Trump was prepared to take military action to stem the crisis in Venezuela.

The U.S. has been urging Russian Federation not to get involved in the Venezuelan conflict, following a longstanding U.S. policy of trying to prevent European influence in Latin America dating back to the President James Monroe, and the Monroe Doctrine.

"Those who try to take Miraflores with violence will be met with violence", he said on national television, referring to the presidential palace where hundreds of government supporters, some of them brandishing firearms, had gathered in response to a call to defend Maduro.

National security adviser John Bolton said on Tuesday the US estimates as many as 25,000 Cuban security forces are operating in Venezuela to bolster the regime. Gaido enjoys the backing of the USA government.

An explosion occurs under a military vehicle during clashes between forces loyal to Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and opposition demonstrators in Caracas on April 30, 2019.

Terming this move a coup attempt, Maduro said prosecutors are investigating the incident.

"The president has been briefed and we are monitoring the ongoing situation", White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said in an email.

"The self-proclaimed, Juan Guaido, and Leopoldo López personally led the coup d'état", Maduro said.

Instead, Washington has upped the economic pressure, through sanctions aimed at Maduro's regime and by cutting sales of Venezuelan oil - the South American country's main revenue earner.

Russia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs rejected a suggestion by made by the United States that it had persuaded Maduro not to flee in the face of street protests, calling the assertion part of an information war.

"All agreed that Maduro had to go", Mr Bolton told reporters in Washington.

But his security adviser, a retired general, said Guaido's support among the military appeared "weak".

He said Venezuela had been a victim of "aggression of all kinds".

The Syrian government, a key ally of Iran, on Wednesday also voiced support for Maduro.