The Latest: Venezuela’s López still expects Maduro’s ouster
CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — The latest on the political crisis in Venezuela (all times local):
Popular Venezuelan opposition leader Leopoldo López says he expects the country’s military will step up to overthrow President Nicolas Maduro despite setbacks.
López spoke with reporters Thursday at the gate of the Spanish ambassador’s home in Caracas, where he’s seeking refuge. He broke house arrest this week to join an attempted military uprising.
He says that in recent weeks he’s talked with majors in the Venezuelan armed forces, who told him they are committed to Maduro’s ouster.
López was detained in 2014 for leading protests against Maduro’s rule and placed under house arrest before appearing in public on Tuesday with self-proclaimed President Juan Guaidó.
López says he’s spent the last five years surrounded by jail guards and security forces posted at his home, giving him insight into their perspective.
Venezuela’s top court has ordered the arrest of Leopoldo López, an opposition activist who took refuge in the Spanish Embassy after joining an attempt to topple President Nicolás Maduro this week.
The Supreme Tribunal of Justice on Thursday instructed police to detain López for violating terms of his house arrest.
On Tuesday, López appeared outside a military base in Caracas with opposition leader Juan Guaidó, who urged the military to overthrow Maduro. When the military did not heed the call, López and his family sought refuge in the Chilean ambassador’s residence. They later moved to the Spanish Embassy.
López was previously detained for leading anti-government protests in 2014 and had been under house arrest for two years.
Former Venezuelan politician and U.N. ambassador Diego Arria says he believes the events of the past two days “mark the end” of President Nicolás Maduro’s regime.
Arria, a former National Congress deputy, minister and governor of Caracas who now lives in exile, told a press conference Thursday at U.N. headquarters in New York it is incorrect to think of the military as separate from Maduro’s regime.
“When you have more than half of the ministries controlled by the army, and they control the oil, the diamonds, the coal, the minerals, the gasoline and the justice and economic system, you have to understand that fundamentally the regime is military,” Arria said. “So what has to collapse is the regime itself.”
He said Venezuela has become “a criminal state controlled by mafia and narco-traffickers” and it “will not come out of this without the use of force.”
“I hope it will be our armed forces, and we don’t need to appeal to outside,” said Arria, who backs opposition leader Juan Guaidó as Venezuela’s legitimate president.
U.S. President Donald Trump says the “brutal repression” of the Venezuelan people must end, and it must end soon.
He says the Venezuelan people are starving and have no water.
“We wish them well,” he said.
Trump is speaking Thursday at the White House as part of a National Day of Prayer ceremony.
He began the event by saying he was sending prayers to the people of Venezuela in their “righteous struggle for freedom.”
Venezuela is in the throes of a power struggle between socialist President Nicolás Maduro and opposition leader Juan Guaidó.
Maduro’s government is widely blamed for the country’s economic and humanitarian crisis but has managed to keep a grip on power.
A Venezuelan human rights group says at least four people died in two days of protests after opposition leader Juan Guaidó called for a military uprising.
The Venezuelan Observatory of Social Conflict says the dead from the unrest on Tuesday and Wednesday include two people who were shot in the city of La Victoria and two others hit by gunfire in Caracas, the capital.
Human rights activists say at least 230 people were injured and 205 were detained during the clashes between protesters and police.
Guaidó’s call on Tuesday for an uprising by the armed forces to oust President Nicolás Maduro went unheeded.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has characterized a phone call with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo about the crisis in Venezuela as having elements of the surreal.
Lavrov made his comments Thursday in the Uzbek capital of Tashkent, a day after he spoke with Pompeo about protests against Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro.
“Pompeo phoned, called for us to refuse to support Maduro, called for Cuba and us not to interfere in the internal affairs of Venezuela. The whole story sounds quite surreal,” Lavrov said.
“If you count up all that official representatives of the American administration say about Venezuela, then you can pose questions endlessly and to all these questions the answer will be, to put it diplomatically: it’s untrue,” he said.
Pompeo claimed earlier that Maduro was ready to flee the South American country, but that unspecified Russians persuaded him to stay.
Spain’s acting foreign minister says a Venezuelan anti-government activist has not asked Spanish authorities for political asylum.
Josep Borrell, who is foreign minister in Spain’s caretaker government, says Leopoldo López is staying as a guest at the Spanish embassy in Caracas.
Borrell says Thursday that, under Spanish law, requests for asylum can be made only in Spain.
He tells Spanish media during an official trip to Jordan that López is staying at the embassy until his next steps become clearer.
López was detained in 2014 for leading protests against President Nicolás Maduro’s rule and placed under house arrest before appearing in public on Tuesday.
Spain has in recent years become a destination for thousands of Venezuelans escaping the country’s political and economic crisis.
Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro has called for military unity in an appearance with soldiers, two days after opposition leader Juan Guaidó called for an uprising.
Flanked by commanders, Maduro said Thursday that the military must be prepared to combat “traitors” and the opposition had sought to provoke bloodshed in Caracas since security forces failed to respond to Guaidó’s bid to take power.
He spoke from Fort Tiuna, a military base in Caracas.
Guaidó, backed by a small contingent of security forces, called for the military to turn against Maduro on Tuesday. But police dispersed the crowds in clashes that raged for hours.
Thousands of Venezuelans heeded the opposition’s call to fill streets around the nation a day later.
The streets of the capital were calm on Thursday.