Juan Guaido calls for more mass protests in Venezuela after day of violence

Juan Guaido calls for more mass protests in Venezuela after day of violence
Protesters clashed with security forces in Venezuela on Tuesday
Protesters clashed with security forces in Venezuela on Tuesday

(BBC) — Venezuela’s opposition leader Juan Guaido has called for more mass protests as he seeks to remove President Nicolas Maduro from power.

Mr Guaido has also urged the country’s military to join with those clamouring for change in the South American nation.

But the opposition appeared to be outmanoeuvred again on Wednesday as security forces used repressive tactics to crush small pockets of stone-throwing youths.

Millions of Venezuelans watched the drama unfold with mixed feelings of fear and exasperation.

Mr Guaido earlier tweeted a list of assembly spots, saying: “Good day, today we continue, here are the points where we are concentrating today in Caracas. We are continuing with more strength than ever Venezuela.”

It comes as US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Washington was prepared to take military action to stem the turmoil in Venezuela.

“Military action is possible. If that’s what’s required, that’s what the United States will do,” he said on Fox Business Network, despite reiterating the US would prefer a peaceful transition of power.

He has also claimed Mr Maduro was prepared to leave the country on Tuesday morning before Russia intervened.

He told CNN: “They had an airplane on the tarmac. He was ready to leave this morning, as we understand it. Russians indicated he should stay.”

Mr Maduro appeared on national television on Tuesday night where he ridiculed that suggestion, adding: “Mr Pompeo, what lack of seriousness.”

And he declared Mr Guaido had tried to impose an “illegitimate government”.

Mr Maduro said the opposition had the support of the United States and neighbouring Colombia, and said Venezuela had been a victim of “aggression of all kinds”.

Mr Guaido, recognised as Venezuela’s rightful president by more than 50 nations, said that Mr Maduro “doesn’t have the backing or respect of the military”.

Mr Guaido issued the call in a video posted on Twitter on Tuesday night, which followed a day of clashes after he all but announced a coup.

The move drew support from the Trump administration.

Violence broke out after Mr Guaido called on the army to rise up and help overthrow the president

Mr Maduro’s forces issued a fierce response as paramilitary police fired at demonstrators.

Venezuelan human rights group Provea said a 24-year-old man was shot and killed during an anti-government protest in the city of La Victoria.

Several armoured vehicles ploughed into a group of anti-government protesters trying to storm the capital air base, with the violence in Caracas marking the most serious challenge yet to Mr Maduro’s rule.

The dramatic scenes in Venezuela began early on Tuesday when Mr Guaido, flanked by a few national guardsmen and some armoured crowd-control vehicles, released a three-minute video near an airbase in Caracas.

Leopoldo Lopez, Mr Guaido’s political mentor and the nation’s most prominent opposition activist, stood alongside him in a surprise move after it was thought he was under house arrest.

Mr Lopez said he had been released by security forces adhering to an order from Mr Guaido.

As the two opposition leaders coordinated actions from an overpass, troops loyal to Mr Maduro fired tear gas from inside the adjacent air base.

A crowd that quickly swelled to a few thousand scurried for cover, reappearing later with Mr Guaido at a plaza a few blocks from the disturbances.

A smaller group of masked youths stayed behind, lobbing rocks and Molotov cocktails toward the air base and setting a government bus on fire.

The head of a medical centre near the site of the street battles said doctors were treating 50 people, about half of them with injuries suffered from rubber bullets.

At least one person had been shot with live ammunition.

Mr Guaido said he called for the uprising to restore Venezuela’s constitutional order.

Mr Maduro was sworn in earlier this year for a second term following elections boycotted by the opposition and considered illegitimate by dozens of countries.

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