The Latest: More clashes in Venezuela’s political crisis
CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — The latest on the political crisis in Venezuela (all times local):
Venezuelans heeded opposition leader Juan Guaidó’s call to fill streets around the nation Wednesday but security forces showed no sign of answering his cry for a widespread military uprising, instead dispersing crowds with tear gas as the political crisis threatened to deepen.
Thousands cheered Guaidó in Caracas as he rolled up his sleeves and called on Venezuelans to remain out in force and prepare for a general strike, a day after his bold attempt to spark a mass military defection against President Nicolas Maduro failed to tilt the balance of power.
Clashes raged again between protesters and troops loyal to Maduro, making clear the standoff would drag on. State security forces launched tear gas and fired rubber bullets while bands of mostly young men threw rocks.
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro says U.S. leaders were fooled by the opposition into believing he was about to flee the country.
The embattled socialist leader told supporters Wednesday at a rally in Caracas that the Trump administration is part of a “pot of lies.” Though he didn’t specifically deny U.S. statements that high-ranking Cabinet members were poised to break ranks, Maduro likened the comments to “fake news.”
He vowed that any conspirators would be placed behind bars soon.
Opposition leader Juan Guaidó on Tuesday called on the military to join with the opposition in ousting Maduro in a floundered bid to spark an uprising. The call unleashed a new wave of anti-government protests but has thus far failed to generate any mass defections from Maduro.
The number of demonstrators injured in Venezuela’s latest political upheaval continues to rise.
Mayor Gustavo Duque says the Salud Chacao medical center took in 27 patients Wednesday by late afternoon. Duque says about half of the injured were hit by buckshot. Several patients reportedly sustained traumatic wounds. One person was shot in the foot with a firearm.
During anti-government disturbances Tuesday, the director of the Caracas hospital said doctors had received over 50 patients injured during clashes between protesters and security forces.
Venezuela is in the throes of a power struggle between socialist President Nicolas Maduro and opposition leader Juan Guaidó. Maduro’s government is widely detested and blamed for the country’s economic and humanitarian crisis but has managed to keep a grip on power.
An online censorship watchdog says Venezuela’s state-run internet provider has again restricted access to services including live-streaming applications, YouTube and translation products from Google and Microsoft.
Europe-based NetBlocks says Wednesday’s blocking began as opposition leader Juan Guaidó appeared in public and called for a general strike.
NetBlocks said multiple services were barely reachable most of Tuesday after Guaidó proclaimed he had military backing to unseat President Nicolás Maduro.
But Maduro was not ousted and those services were restored shortly before he addressed the nation on TV Tuesday evening.
NetBlocks said Periscope was among live-streaming apps difficult to access for a second day Wednesday.
Online rights activists say blocking translation services is a way of censoring foreign media reports on Venezuelan political unrest, while frustrating access to messaging and live-streaming impedes communications among anti-government protesters.
Socialist party leader Diosdado Cabello says Venezuela’s armed forces remain united behind Nicolás Maduro despite opposition calls for them to revolt.
Speaking at a pro-Maduro rally Wednesday, Cabello said the military “as a block” stood their ground, but for a handful of exceptions.
He said opposition leaders are now “walking like zombies” after failing to provoke the widespread uprising urged by opposition leader Juan Guaidó.
The opposition and Maduro loyalists are staging dueling protests as they try to get the upper hand in the nation’s power struggle.
The demonstrations come one day after Guaidó called for troops to join him. Thus far only a few have heeded his call.
Safety regulators are requiring that any U.S. airline flights over Venezuela remain at least 26,000 feet high, saying that the roiling political crisis in the country increases an “inadvertent risk” to planes.
The Federal Aviation Administration emergency notice says pilots in Venezuela or its airspace should leave within 48 hours if they can do so safely.
The FAA said exceptions can only be made with approval from itself or other U.S. government agencies.
No U.S. passenger airlines fly to Venezuela since American Airlines suspended its flights in mid-March. The airline acted after union leaders told pilots not to operate the flights due to safety concerns.
The FAA order, which has no end date, could affect flights between the U.S. and other South American destinations in South America.
American Airlines flights to Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro have avoided Venezuelan airspace for some time. A spokesman said that was to avoid high air-navigation fees imposed by Venezuela’s government.
The U.S. has imposed flight restrictions on other countries because of safety issues.
In April 2014, the FAA banned U.S. airlines from flying over parts of Ukraine, citing conflict between the government and pro-Russia rebels. Three months later, a Malaysian Airlines jet was shot down while flying over eastern Ukraine. Dutch investigators concluded that the plane was downed by a missile fired from rebel-controlled territory.
Venezuela opposition leader Juan Guaidó has emerged at a public protest a day after his risky call for a military uprising — an appeal that has thus far gone unheeded.
Guaidó said Wednesday that the opposition will need to step up its pressure against President Nicolás Maduro. And he called on supporters to take steps toward a general strike.
With his sleeves rolled up, the 35-year-old lawmaker said his movement is winning, despite the lack of military response on Tuesday. In his words, “The usurper has lost.”
Guaidó is recognized as the country’s legitimate president by the U.S. and more than 50 other nations.
Brazil’s president is praising Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó for his effort to topple the government of Nicolás Maduro.
Bolsonaro praised Guaidó’s “patriotic and democratic spirit to fight for freedom in his country” in remarks to reporters Wednesday after meeting with Cabinet ministers and military leaders about the situation in the neighboring country.
Bolsonaro also said he had intelligence pointing to a “fissure” within the Venezuelan armed forces.
The Brazilian president also expressed concern that U.S. embargos on Venezuelan oil could impact international oil prices and therefore fuel prices in Brazil.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has strongly criticized US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for interference in Venezuela’s political crisis.
A ministry statement issued Wednesday says that Lavrov and Pompeo spoke by phone at the United States’ initiative.
It says “The focus was on the situation in Venezuela, where the day before the opposition ... attempted to seize power,” with “the clear support of the United States.
It says the Russians stressed that “Washington’s interference in the internal affairs of a sovereign state, the threat against its leadership is a gross violation of international law.”
And it warned that “the continuation of aggressive steps is fraught with the most serious consequences.”
State security forces are using tear gas to disperse protesters opposed to President Nicolás Maduro who have gathered at a middle-class neighborhood in western Caracas.
National Guardsmen on motorcycles arrived at the El Paraiso neighborhood Wednesday as opposition demonstrations got underway.
Some protesters shouted at the agents, saying, “Stop firing at the people!”
Many dispersed after white clouds of tear gas spread through the air while others vowed to remain, waving flags and banging pots.
The protests come a day after opposition leader Juan Guaidó attempted to spur a military uprising against Maduro — though few troops so far have joined his cause.
Maduro supporters are also holding rallies.
Several hundred opposition supporters have gathered in a Caracas neighborhood, heeding a call by opposition leader Juan Guaidó for more protests a day after his calls for a military uprising fell short.
Some of Wednesday’s protesters in Altamira district said they were disappointed by the failure of the military to respond to the call to oust President Nicolás Maduro, as well as by the lack of a massive presence of demonstrators that could force a change of government.
Sixty-three-year-old Ninsa Borges says she’s hoping for a larger turnout of protesters this time.
Maduro has accused Guaidó of trying to stage a coup and says there will be criminal prosecutions.
Venezuela’s unrest has forced the cancellation of several international flights to and from the country’s main airport.
Spanish airline Air Europa says Wednesday’s Caracas flights have been canceled. Flights over the next 10 days also might also be affected because of the “latest developments” in Venezuela.
The Caracas-based travel agency Molina Viajes says flights to and from Miami on Wednesday have been suspended.
Estelar airline says its Wednesday flight from Buenos Aires, Argentina, to Caracas has been cancelled. However, it says flights to and from Peru and Chile are operating.
Things are running more smoothly underground than in the sky: The Caracas subway is operating again after stopping service during clashes between opposition protesters and security forces across the Venezuelan capital a day earlier.
U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton says that Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro is surrounded by “scorpions in a bottle” and it’s only a matter of time before he leaves power.
Bolton says key figures in Maduro’s leadership, including the defense minister and head of the presidential guard, have been “outed” as dealing with the opposition, which is led by Juan Guaidó, the National Assembly president who is recognized by the U.S. and scores of other countries as Venezuela’s legitimate president.
Speaking to reporters at the White House, Bolton said he doesn’t think Maduro can look at his defense minister any longer and trust him, and claimed the socialist leader spent most of Tuesday at a military prison in Caracas that the U.S. says is a key Cuban command post in Venezuela “because he doubted the loyalty of the Venezuelan armed forces.”
The White House says U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo intends to discuss developments in Venezuela with his Russian counterpart.
That’s according to National Security Adviser John Bolton, who says Pompeo and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov are expected to speak Wednesday.
Bolton and other U.S. officials say Russia is responsible for a decision by Venezuelan leader Nicolás Maduro to remain in his country. Bolton and Pompeo have claimed Maduro was ready to fly to Cuba on Tuesday following an attempted military uprising against him until Russia persuaded him to stay.
The U.S. has provided no evidence for the assertion, and Maduro has ridiculed it.
Massive pro- and anti-Maduro protests are planned across Venezuela on Wednesday. Bolton says the U.S. does not want a repeat of the violence that marred protests Tuesday.
Stones, spent shotgun shells and tear gas canisters litter some streets in Venezuela’s capital, where both the government and opponents are calling for a second day of demonstrations.
Opposition leader Juan Guaidó is calling for Venezuelans to fill streets around the country later Wednesday to demand Nicolás Maduro’s ouster. Maduro’s also calling for his supporters to rally.
Guaidó called for a military uprising on Tuesday, but only a small group of soldiers broke ranks and top military leaders swore loyalty to Maduro.
Spain’s government has confirmed that Venezuelan opposition activist Leopoldo López is at the Spanish Embassy in Caracas following an attempted military uprising on Tuesday that aimed to overthrow President Nicolas Maduro.
Spain’s government says López, who is Juan Guaidó’s political mentor and Venezuela’s most prominent opposition activist, is at the Spanish ambassador’s residence in Caracas along with his wife and daughter.
The Chilean Foreign Minister Roberto Ampuero had already said on Twitter that López and his wife had made the “personal decision” to go to the Spanish Embassy because the Chilean Embassy “already had guests.”
Detained in 2014 for leading a previous round of anti-government unrest, López said on Tuesday he had been released from house arrest by security forces following an order from Guaidó.
He called it the moment for Venezuelans to reclaim their democracy once and for all. But as the hours dragged on, opposition leader Juan Guaidó stood alone on a highway overpass with the same small cadre of soldiers with whom he launched a bold effort to spark a military uprising and settle Venezuela’s agonizing power struggle.
Like past attempts to oust President Nicolas Maduro, the opposition seemed outmaneuvered again Tuesday. What Guaidó dubbed “Operation Freedom” triggered a familiar pattern of security forces using repressive tactics to crush small pockets of stone-throwing youths while millions of Venezuelans watched the drama unfold with a mix of fear and exasperation.
The opposition’s hoped-for split in the military didn’t emerge, a plane that the United States claimed was standing by to ferry Maduro into exile never took off and by nightfall one of the government’s bravest opponents, who defied house arrest to join the insurrection, had quietly sought refuge with his family in a foreign embassy.